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Strange facts: Bike helmets make cars drive more closely

You never leave your helmet at home when you hop on your bike. You know the dangers of a head injury. You commute to work on your bike every day, and you always have that helmet on while you do it.

Does it actually make you safer? One study suggests that, while it can keep you safer in the event of an accident, it may also increase your risks. Why? Drivers won't give you any space.

One man tested this theory out with ultrasonic sensors. He then rode around with a helmet on and without a helmet, letting 2,300 cars and trucks pass him while measuring the distances.

What he found was alarming. The average distance drivers gave him when he had a helmet on was a full 3.35 inches less than when he did not have his helmet. In fact, a bus and a truck both made contact with him while riding. He wasn't injured, but both incidents happened while he was wearing a helmet.

He also tested the theory out wearing a wig so that drivers coming up behind would think he was a woman. That got him an average of 2.2 more inches of space from drivers.

While many drivers would say that they treat all cyclists the same way, this study shows that is not the case. The danger for men wearing helmets, in some ways, may be greatest.

If you are hit by a driver who was careless and negligent, your injuries could be severe, with or without a helmet. Be sure that you know if you have a right to financial compensation.

Source: Scientific American, "Strange but True: Helmets Attract Cars to Cyclists," Nikhil Swaminathan, accessed Aug. 22, 2017

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