Motorcycle Universal Helmet Laws Make a Difference

    Motorcycle enthusiasts usually have strong feeling about mandatory helmet laws. There are many riders who would never consider firing up their engine without strapping on a helmet. These motorcycle riders often support motorcycle helmet laws as a way to save lives, prevent catastrophic injuries, and reduce public health expenditures for crash-related injuries. Many other motorcyclists find mandatory helmet laws to be an unnecessary intrusion on a rider’s freedom of choice.

    As Mississippi personal injury attorneys who see the devastating impact of traumatic head injuries incurred in motorcycle accidents, our law firm urges riders of all ages to wear a helmet that meets Department of Transportation (DOT) and Snell Foundation standards. While we leave the political and philosophical debate to lawmakers, our Mississippi Motorcycle Accident Lawyers are firm proponents of the theory that the best decisions are those based on as much information as possible. This blog post provides some critical facts about motorcycle helmet safety and the impact of mandatory helmet laws.

    Universal helmet laws, which currently exist in only 19 states and the District of Columbia, have changed dramatically in recent times. Approximately, 28 other states have laws that mandate helmet use for some riders, such as riders under a certain age and/or riders that do not satisfy certain minimum insurance requirements. All states had universal helmet laws in the early 1970s until the federal government ceased tying federal funds for safety programs and highway construction to the existence of mandatory helmet laws. Unlike many other states, Mississippi continues to require all riders to wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle on public roadways.

    There is a wealth of data that demonstrates the potential risks associated with riding a motorcycle without a helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of crash-related motorcycle deaths on a per mile traveled basis is 26 times higher than the number of fatalities in car accidents. Approximately 4,668 people died and another 88,000 were injured in motorcycle accidents in the most recent year for which federal data is available. Serious head injuries are the most common cause of permanent disability and fatalities among motorcycle accident injury victims. The NHTSA reports that wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent and reduces the risk of a traumatic brain injury by 67 percent.

    While there is little dispute that motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of injury or death for riders, some might question whether mandatory helmet laws actually increase helmet usage. A recent federal study suggests that helmet use nearly doubles in states with universal helmet laws compared to all other states. The researchers found that the helmet use rate in universal helmet law jurisdictions was 89 percent whereas the rate was only 48 percent in all other states. Further, increased helmet use in mandatory helmet law states and the effectiveness in helmets in preventing serious head injuries has resulted in improved rider safety. A number of states have reinstated their universal helmet laws since 1989 with the following results:

    • State                Decline in Motorcycle Accident Fatality Rates
    • Oregon:           33 percent
    • Texas:              23 percent
    • California:       37 percent
    • Nebraska:        32 percent
    • Washington:    15 percent
    • Maryland:        20 percent

    Whether you are a supporter of universal helmet laws or not, these statutes seem to be an effective way to improve motorcycle safety. If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle crash, the compassionate and knowledgeable Mississippi personal injury lawyers at Porter & Malouf, P.A. are here to help. Call our office today at (601) 957-1173 to schedule your free initial consultation.