According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. 28 states have laws requiring only certain motorcyclists to wear helmets. Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire do not have any motorcycle laws.
By the early 1970’s, primarily because of federal funding incentives, almost all of the states had universal motorcycle helmet laws. However, between 1976 and 1980, due to heavy lobbying by motorcyclists opposed to helmet laws, 28 states either weakened those laws or repealed them altogether.
So, what are the consequences of lighter or no helmet laws? As free as it feels to ride with your hair in the wind, studies show that the consequences can be quite severe. Between 1976 and 1980, when those states either weakened or repealed the universal helmet laws, motorcycle fatalities increased 55 percent while the number of registered motorcyclists only increased 15 percent. An analysis of motorcycle crash data has shown that helmets reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle crash by 29 percent and are 67 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injury.
A study conducted by the University of Southern
California showed that wearing a helmet was the single most critical factor in preventing or reducing head and neck injuries to motorcyclists and their passengers. Statistics also show that from 1984 through 1995, helmets saved the lives of more than 7,400 motorcyclists. It also showed that more than 6,300 additional deaths could have been prevented if all riders had been wearing helmets.
While some are opposed to helmet laws because they
feel this limits their freedom to choose, studies shows that laws requiring wearing a helmet are very effective in reducing motorcycle fatalities because riders are more likely to wear helmets when a mandatory law is in place. Louisiana is the first state to repeal and then re-adopt a helmet law for all riders. In 1982, the first year the helmet law was reinstated in Louisiana, there were 30 percent fewer motorcycle deaths.
The injuries associated with
motorcyclists were always far
more catastrophic for those
who chose not to wear a helmet
After working over a decade in the insurance industry and handling all types of claims, I can assure you, the injuries associated with motorcyclists were always far more catastrophic for those who chose not to wear a helmet.
While wearing a helmet is not the be-all and end-all to motorcycle safety, it is clearly a significant factor in preventing fatalities, head injuries, and other serious traumatic injuries. I love being a passenger on the back of my hubby’s Harley and we both always wear our helmets, regardless of the local requirements. Motorcycle helmets save lives and, you never know, that saved life may just be yours. After all, don’t you want to live to ride another day?
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