Reducing Motorcycle Fatalities Through Helmet Use?

As part of motorcycle safety awareness month, it is important to take a closer look at the number of serious injuries and fatal accidents that stem from motorcycle accidents.

Unfortunately, even though safety improvements have helped reduce serious and fatal car accidents, the same cannot be said for motorcycle crashes. In fact, nationwide fatal motorcycle accidents have been on the rise since 1997.

A study of national motorcycle accidents a few years ago revealed that almost all motorcycle crashes result in injury: 45 percent of which are serious injuries. Motorcycle riders, given how exposed they are to their external environment, are 34 times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident than are drivers and passengers in cars.

Safety advocates wonder if having a national helmet law would help decrease fatalities in the event of a motorcycle crash.

In Texas, the state’s universal helmet law was repealed in 1997. The law was replaced with one targeting motorcyclists under the age of 21; fewer motorcycle riders over the age of 21 have continued to use helmets since the law was repealed a decade and a half ago. And data from a research study suggestions that this decision has had an adverse effect, as fatal motorcycles accidents across the state have continued to rise (as we noted in our last post).

Doubtless, wearing an appropriate motorcycle helmet saves lives and certainly lessens the risk of sustaining brain damage or other serious head and facial trauma. NHTSA has estimated that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities; meaning that almost 200 motorcycle deaths in Texas in 2008 might have been prevented had helmets been worn.

Related resource: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “U.S. Department of Transportation Action Plan to Reduce Motorcycle Fatalities.”