Motorcycle Safety in Texas Following the Repeal of the Helmet Law

To many motorcycle owners, riding is a way of life. Many riders embrace the culture that surrounds motorcycling with its own groups, fashions and outlook on life. Being a biker to an outsider may conjure up a certain outlaw image, fostered by such former and current notorious outlaw biker gangs or clubs as the Hell’s Angels, Banditos and Satan’s Slaves.

For many riders, motorcycling is a way of expressing their desire for freedom. Part of that freedom is riding unencumbered by a helmet, enjoying the wind while speeding down the open road. But, along with that freedom is an increased risk for head trauma and serious injury in the event of a motorcycle accident.

No Helmet Requirements: A Fatal Impact

Texas repealed its universal helmet law in 1997. Since then, a study released by the Southern Medical Association showed that between 1994 and 2004, motorcycle fatalities increased by 30 percent. The fatality rates per motorcycle registration increased by 15.2 percent over this time, and fatality rates per vehicle miles traveled also increased by 25 percent. The conclusion of the study was that the helmet law repeal had a significant adverse effect.

Since the repeal of the universal helmet law, Texas has required that all motorcyclists over the age of 21 not wearing helmets must either have proof of health insurance or attend an approved motorcycle operator training course. (All bikers aged 21 or younger still must wear a helmet.) Motorcycle riders not wearing helmets and not meeting one of these two helmet exemption requirements can be fined and cited for a misdemeanor.

It is no secret that wearing an appropriate motorcycle helmet saves lives and certainly lessens the risk of sustaining brain damage or other serious head and facial trauma. Given the choice of whether to wear a helmet, though, it looks like many Texas bikers have chosen not to wear one: helmet use has decreased over the years from 75 percent using helmets in 1996, to 63 percent in 1997, and dropping to 35 percent in 1998 and thereafter.

Unfortunately, a rider’s failure to take the most basic step in preventing a serious injury can lead to a shortened life or one with a serious disability or disfigurement. Motorcycles are more prone to vehicle fatalities than cars. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about nine percent of all passenger vehicle rider fatalities are motorcycle-related, despite motorcycles accounting for less than three percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S. The NHTSA has also estimated that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities; meaning that for 2003, during which 3,661 people died in motorcycle accidents, an additional 1,158 more riders would have died had they not been wearing helmets.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, helmet or not, talking to a personal injury attorney in your area can ensure that you receive compensation for your medical expenses and pain and suffering.