Motorcycle Helmets– Put One On

I’m a little biased. I work with families of motorcycle crashes daily, and I am struck by the horror of the deaths and serious injuries to victims of motorcycle crashes. So, I remain ever curious, what data/research supports my feeling and support of helmet regulations for motorcyclists? I consulted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as they compiled more research than just about any other organization regarding highway safety. The NHTSA compiled 25 different studies and found some “research problems” with reviewing all of the studies under one umbrella. Comparing statistics state to state was a problem, but what were the overall findings?

  • Every study examining the question of medical care costs found that nonhelmeted patients incurred higher average hospital charges than helmeted patients on an average of 30%.
  • When comparing the costs of a head injury as opposed to other injuries, the data indicated that patients with head injuries incurred higher charges than trauma patients with non-head-related injuries anywhere from 79-178%.
    • California studies indicate that hospital costs of motorcycle-related head-injured fell from $36.6 million in 1991 to $15.9 million in 1992 after the state’s universal helmet law went into effect. Policymakers have to look at that statistic when considering health costs and personal safety.

Data for studies were not completely accurate as one expert indicated that really severe head injuries did not result in large medical costs because the victim simply died before accumulating a lot of bills.

The NHSTA study compilation is exhaustive and long but sobering. The health costs amassed by motorcycle victims are enormous. Nonhelmeted motorcycle victims suffered greater injuries, a greater number of fatalities, and larger health costs. So if we examined it from a purely monetary aspect, helmet legislation seems like an obvious decision.

According to the NHTSA, motorcycles are by far the most fuel-efficient type of highway travel. Because motorcycles are capable of high speeds and offer minimal occupant protection, they are also the most hazardous highway vehicles. They have the highest crash costs per person-mile. According to cited studies, it was determined through the statistics that helmets are the best-evaluated way to reduce motorcycle deaths and injuries.

Because so many motorcyclists value their independence, legislators have met much resistance in enacting federal helmet laws. I have encountered that same resistance to my blogs, posts, and articles when discussing helmet laws. The federal government has twice enacted and then repealed laws designed to promote state helmet laws.

I have a proposal that addresses motorcyclist’s need for freedom and independence and the need for safety and reducing the amount of health costs we all absorb due to increased serious injuries of motorcycle crashes.

Let’s learn something from the Germans and their regulation of the Autobahn. While the Germans love the Autobahn because of the perception of unlimited speeds, there are actually some speed limits around metropolitan areas. Also, motorcycles and pedestrians are not allowed on the Autobahn….the Germans have a strict policy about pulling over and alcohol consumption. On-the-spot citations are given as well as compulsory items such as First Aid Kits.

I propose that motorcycle helmets are optional, but motorcyclists not wearing a helmet must be able to produce proof of more than adequate healthcare coverage…..I would suggest at least a million-dollar policy. Meaning, if you want to ride without a helmet and risk your own noggin, don’t ask the rest of us to absorb your health care costs. Sound radical? Not really. The Germans and other European countries have been implementing such policies for years.

The German Autobahn actually experiences lower accident rates than do American highways. A requirement of driving on the Autobahn is registration, driver’s license, insurance papers, and reflective vests/first aid kids. It is not a constitutional right to operate a motor vehicle, nor is it a constitutional right to operate a motorcycle. I emphatically support no tolerance legislation for drinking and driving. Riding without a helmet is really a personal decision because you are most likely to be injured or killed if you are involved in an accident. This scenario is quite different than regulating alcohol and driving. Choosing to drink and drive endangers everyone on the road around you and not just yourself. I don’t want the government to tell me I have to wear a helmet but put laws in place to ensure that people help pay for the risks they take seems reasonable. We are individually responsible for the mistakes we make.

From a purely monetary point of view, some type of helmet legislation is imperative. From a personal point of view, helmets for a motorcyclist are a no-brainer. I don’t want to sound unsympathetic to the families of motorcycle crash victims……I represent too many of them and know the pain they have experienced through the loss of loved ones. So let me be clear…..I personally support motorcycle helmet use as a safety measure. I also endorse motorcycle safety training programs as a part of motorcycle licensing. I endorse safety training programs for operators of all kinds of motor vehicles, be it personal automobiles, semi-trucks, ATVs, motorcycles, or boats…..we all need safety training and reminders. The promotion of safety and awareness is one of the few ways we can impact the number of accident victims.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or fatality due to the negligence of others, you should consult a personal injury attorney to determine all of your options. Personal injury attorneys offer free consultations in order to help you better ascertain if you need representation… around…talk to several…gain all of the information you can following a serious accident. Attorneys at my firm are available every day of the week and accessible via (314) 276-1681 at any time. Call Zane T. Cagle for a free consultation.

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The Cagle Law Firm serves accident and injury clients throughout St. Louis and the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, including the eastern Missouri and southern Illinois communities. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance with your personal injury case, call The Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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