Helmets save lives and prevent serious brain injuries.
In 1998, 2,284 motorcyclists were killed on our nation's highways and 49,000 more were injured. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle helmets have been shown to save the lives of motorcyclists and prevent serious brain injuries. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia require helmet use by all motorcycle drivers and their passengers. Twenty-five other states have laws only covering some riders, especially those younger than 18. Three states Colorado, Illinois, and Iowa have no helmet requirements at all. All-rider helmet laws are effective in increasing motorcycle helmet use, thereby saving lives and reducing serious injuries.
- Motorcycles make up less than two percent of all registered vehicles and only 0.4 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, but motorcyclists account for six percent of traffic deaths. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, 1999)
- Per vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists are about 14 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash and three times as likely to be injured. (NHTSA, 1999)
- In 1998, 41 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, about twice the percentage for drivers of passenger cars and light trucks. The rate of alcohol involvement was more than 50 percent higher for motorcyclists than for vehicle drivers. (NHTSA, 1999)
Advocates Condemns Florida House Passage of Motorcycle Helmet Law Repeal
(Washington, D.C.) Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety today condemned the vote by Florida's lawmakers, which repeals the state's all-rider motorcycle helmet law. The Florida House passed the All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Repeal Bill (HB 117) today 71 to 43. The bill, if signed into law, will exempt persons over the age of 21 from wearing protective headgear while operating or riding a motorcycle provided that they are covered by an insurance policy of at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash. This bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration. A Senate repeal bill, SB 126, which exempts riders with insurance policies of at least $100,000, is poised for a floor vote.
Cathy Babics Chase, Director of State Affairs at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, stated, "Failing to retain Florida's all-rider motorcycle helmet law will result in increased deaths and injuries on the roads. Helmet use has been found to be the single most important factor in preventing death and injury, this vote is a step in the wrong direction." States that maintain all-rider motorcycle helmet laws experience a substantial decrease in motorcycle fatalities.
"Contrary to popular myth, states with age specific or no helmet-use laws do not have lower fatality rates than states with all-rider laws. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated that the rate of head-injury motorcycle fatalities in states with partial or no helmet-use laws was almost twice that of states with comprehensive laws," according to Chase.
Sixty-six percent of the motorcyclists referred to the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Unit in Florida between July 1, 1996 and December 31, 1997 were not wearing helmets. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. In 1998, 183 motorcyclists were killed on Florida's roads. Advocates notes that when Texas repealed its 1968 all-rider helmet law in 1977, fatalities increased 53 percent. If Florida were to experience a similar increase, it would be result in almost 300 additional unnecessary motorcycle fatalities in the state.
"All-rider helmet laws save valuable taxpayer and healthcare dollars. Acute care costs for non-helmeted riders averaged three times those of helmeted motorcyclists, and it is well documented that a large part of the costs of treating motorcycle crash injuries are paid for by public funds. Florida should stick with its all-rider helmet law, which protects the safety of motorcycle riders and the pocketbooks of the voting public. "
"Although this bill requires riders to have $10,000 in medical benefits, this falls well short of the real costs of related injuries. According the Florida Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program, on average, each brain injury referral costs between $375,000 and $3,770,460 for long term care," noted Chase.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, safety, law enforcement, public health and insurance organizations working to reduce deaths and injuries on our nation's highways. For more information please visit our World Wide Web site at http://www.saferoads.org. Contact Stuart P. Mackintosh at (202) 408-1711 for further information.
Motorcycle Helmet Law Facts
- Surveys have shown that helmet use is essentially 100 percent in places with all-rider motorcycle helmet laws compared to 34 to 54 percent at locations with no helmet laws or with age-specific helmet laws. All-rider laws significantly increase helmet use because they are easy to enforce due to the rider's high visibility. (NHTSA, 1999)
- Motorcycle helmets saved the lives of an estimated 500 motorcyclists in 1998. An additional 307 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. (NHTSA, 1999)
- In 1998, almost 50 percent of motorcycle drivers killed in crashes were not wearing a helmet. Of the motorcycle passengers who died in crashes, 55 percent were not wearing a helmet. (NHTSA, 1999)
- According to a California study, helmet use is the single most important factor in preventing death and head injury to motorcyclists. (McLoughlin, 1990)
- Helmets reduce the risk of death by one-third and are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries to motorcycle riders. (NHTSA, 1999)
- The average hospital charge for seriously head-injured motorcyclists was found to be almost three times that of motorcyclists without head injuries, $43,214 v. $15,528. (Orsay, et al., 1994)
- In 1992, the first year of California's all-rider motorcycle helmet law, 327 motorcyclists died in traffic crashes, compared to 512 in 1991 a 36 percent reduction in fatalities in one year. (California Highway Patrol, 1999)
- After passage of Maryland's all-rider helmet law in 1992, motorcyclist deaths dropped dramatically 20 percent in 1993 and 30 percent from 1993 to 1994. (Maryland Department of Transportation, 1997)
- An estimated $12.1 billion was saved from 1984 through 1998 because of motorcycle helmet use. An additional $10.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. (NHTSA, 1999)