Helmet laws are among the only safety regulations that have lost strength in recent years. In many states, motorcycle groups have campaigned to have mandatory helmet laws repealed. A recent study connects the easing of helmet laws with a rise in the severity of motorcycle accidents. While traffic fatalities from car accidents have steadily decreased, motorcycle deaths have now increased 14 years out of the last 15 according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Whether or not declining helmet laws are the cause, it is a concerning trend that should be addressed going forward.
Several studies have identified a trend of rising motorcycle deaths following the easing of helmet laws. A recent study from the Highway Loss Data Institute quantified the rising cost of motorcycle injuries. Michigan made changes to its helmet laws two years ago. The average insurance payment on motorcycle accident claims in the two years prior to the change was $5,410. After the change, the cost rose by more than one-third to $7,257 per claim.
Many motorcycle crashes are caused by other motorists. The Start Seeing Motorcycles campaign was designed to encourage car and truck drivers to pay attention and acknowledge the rights of motorcyclists to share the road. With or without a helmet, a motorcycle rider is in significant danger when other vehicles fail to drive safely. The increase in distracted driving caused by the explosion of smart phones and text messaging poses a serious problem for motorcyclists.
Helmets provide an important layer of protection for motorcyclists. Riders should strongly consider wearing a helmet even if the law does not require it. In addition, riders should take available safety courses and get their motorcycle license before taking to the roads. Motorcycle safety is important for everyone on the road.
Source: Insurance Journal, “Motorcycle Injuries Rise After Helmet Laws Weakened: Study,” by Joan Lowy, 17 June 2013