Virginia Tech researching bike helmet safety ratings

Published: Aug. 18, 2016 at 8:22 PM EDT
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Researchers at Virginia Tech have been studying concussions in sports. Now they're turning their attention to sports other than football and hockey to protect more people.

According to the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences (ICTAS), soccer is the number one sport world-wide that causes head injuries.

But in the United States, it's bicycling accidents that cause more than half of all head injuries.

In Virginia, there is no law forcing bicyclists to wear helmets if they're over the age of fourteen. But those who choose to wear them, swear by their protection.

Daniel Wood, a student at Virginia Tech who rides a bicycle regularly said, "I haven't gone out without one so far. I feel that it's a safe thing, I know a lot of people who've had wrecks who weren't wearing helmets and ones who had and I've seen the difference."

Every helmet that is sold has to pass a test by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But that test is a pass/fail, it doesn't score the best helmets from the worst.

Dr. Stefan Duma, the Executive Director of ICTAS, explained, "All the helmets pass. Some pass by a little, some pass by a lot, and you want to buy the best ones."

The problem for people buying bike helmets now is that there's nothing on the box or on the helmet that shows whether it's one of the safe ones. That's the issue Dr. Duma and his team are trying to solve.

"We're looking at working with the companies and putting hang tags, so when you got to Walmart or Dick's Sporting Goods the helmet will have a hang tag, 'Virginia Tech 5 Star Helmet,'" Dr. Duma said.

Duma and his team will use their machines and sensors to test every kind of bike helmet there is. And cyclists in the area look forward to seeing these hang tags in stores.

"The only feature that I look at, because I'm uninformed, is how it looks, if it looks fancy," said Amogh Jalihal who rides a bike every day. "Because I've been riding for many years now I feel that helmet safety is important and I would definitely look at helmet ratings."

Marwan Khalil who just bought a bike Wednesday added, "Everyone wants to be safe and having a rating for safety is very important because I feel like this is not safe."

One issue the team faces is that unlike football or hockey helmets, there are hundreds of manufacturers and styles to test.

The testing will begin soon, so researchers wanted to notify companies first in case they wanted to change anything in their designs.

They hope to start seeing the hang tags in stores early next 2017.