KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Consumer Reports article on bicycle helmets could lead to more head injuries because it overstates the importance of strap buckles, a University of Tennessee engineer said Wednesday.
David Halstead, director of the Sports Biomechanics Impact Laboratory in UT-Knoxville’s College of Engineering, said buckles rated poorly by Consumer Reports have not failed in tests at UT and several other institutions.
Halstead tests all aspects of bicycle helmets, including buckles, at UT. He also chairs the committee that sets bicycle helmet safety standards for the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
The article in the magazine’s June issue could mislead consumers to think that buckle strength is the most important factor in choosing a bicycle helmet, he said.
It might also discourage cyclists from using headgear, increasing the possibility of head injuries, he said.
“This report sensationalizes the issue of buckle strength on bike helmets,” Halstead said. “It could have tragic consequences should retailers decide to pull helmets from their shelves, or consumers choose not to wear a helmet because of confusion this article has caused.”
Halstead said the most important safety determination for consumers is that the helmet is certified by the ASTM or the Snell Memorial Foundation, the groups that set voluntary standards for bike helmets.
Factors more important than buckle strength are proper fit, adjustability and styling that the user is willing to wear, he said.
Halstead said the magazine’s researchers may have been unaware that bicycle helmet buckles are designed to hold to a certain point and then release. If they did not release, they could snag on something and choke or injure the wearer, he said.
In Europe, at least six children have died because their helmet buckles did not release at a critical point, he said.
Contact: David Halstead (423-974-3333)