The Diffusion of Innovations theory is used to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas spread through social systems. One prominent example of the Diffusion of Innovations theory is the promotion of bicycle helmets in New Zealand, where 93% of bikers wear helmets, compared to about 50% in the United States. During the 1970s, helmet use was an innovation that coincided with a boom in bicycle riding, but it was adopted by very few cyclists. This changed in New Zealand in the late 1980s, mostly due to the dissemination efforts of Rebecca Oaten after her son, Austen, suffered permanent brain damage in 1986 after being hit by a car while en route to school on his bicycle. Mrs. Oaten’s communication channels included talking to children in schools and lobbying the government for a helmet law. Implementation of the law was finally accomplished in 1994 and has now resulted in the diffusion of helmet wearing to nearly all of the population.
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