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Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on May 28th, 2021,
by Zane Cagle

MO Motorcycle Fatalities Increase During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

eyez of for motorcycles

Posted on May 28th, 2021 by Zane Cagle

Prior to this month which is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, there were 18 motorcycle crash fatalities in Missouri.  Since May 1, 2021, there have been nine more motorcycle related fatalities and we have not gotten through Memorial Day Weekend. Twenty-seven motorcycle/ATV fatalities before Memorial Day weekend is a tragically high number for 2021

Motorcycles make up 3% of all registered vehicles but accounted for about 14 percent of all road fatalities.

After the repeal of the mandatory helmet law in MO, the Missouri Department of Transportation predicted an increase in motorcycle fatalities of at least 38 percent. At this rate, Missouri is on course to surpass that fatal statistic.

Since the beginning of May 2021, there have been nine (9) fatal motorcycle/ATV crashes (according to MSHP reports alone, city and county crashes are additional).   Each one of these fatalities is an enormous loss for their families and their communities. In all but one of the recent nine fatal incidents, no helmets were worn. While motorcycle helmets are not a requirement for all operators of motorcycles and ATV’s (since the MO Governor signed a bill weakening motorcycle helmet laws in MO as of August of 2021), safety experts unanimously agree that helmets save lives.  Every other state that has recalled mandatory helmet laws has seen a dramatic increase in motorcycle fatalities and head injuries.

It appears Missouri is on course to repeat the pattern of every other state that dropped their mandatory helmet laws.

Reasons for Increase in Motorcycle Crash Fatalities

Increased Traffic

Prior to May, investigators studying the recent fatalities said there are a couple of reasons for the increase. One,  there is significant more traffic compared to this time last year which was the beginning of the pandemic; and two, the change in the MO mandatory helmet law.  Motorcycle crashes always increase in the spring and summer months. Due to vaccination rates on the rise and dropping Covid-19 cases, more and more motorists are returning to the roadways.  We each have to be reminded to keep a look out for motorcycles. Likewise, motorcyclists have an obligation to ride safely. Additionally, it is projected that there are many new riders this year following the pandemic.

Change in Mandatory Helmet MO Law

Last August 2020, we had seen nine (9) motorcycle fatalities in just 18 days in Missouri.  At that time, tremendous traffic had returned to the roadways but nine fatalities in 17 days was horrifying.   Investigators also believe the new motorcycle helmet law reduction has had a major role.  An increase in motorcycle fatalities was expected as every state that has repealed their mandatory motorcycle helmet laws have seen large increases in motorcycle crash fatalities and head injuries.  The new law went into effect August 28, 2020.

Since the change in the MO mandatory helmet law, Sergeant Michael McClure of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said, “Because of the law being passed, I think we are all seeing more motorcyclists without helmets. That’s just a logical assumption by just what we observe. So that would account for, so far, the six fatalities that had no helmet on” (reference to Springfield, MO area fatalities prior to May)

Failure to Keep a Look Out for Motorcycles

Still, one of the biggest dangers to motorcyclists are other motorists who simply do not see them. Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable in the event of a crash as they generally have less protection than occupants of vehicles.  In 2019, there were 121 motorcycle fatalities on Missouri roadways.  All motorists have a responsibility to look out for bicyclists and motorcyclists.  Other motorists can improve safety by looking twice for motorcyclists.  In 2019, seventy-nine percent of motorcycle crashes resulted in injury or death. Motorcyclists increase their likelihood of survival by 38% by wearing a helmet.

Motorcycles are relatively small and drivers do not see them especially if they are not on the lookout for them. However, we’ve been hearing the hum of motorcycles on our roadways since warmer temperatures returned in March

The fact remains that motorcyclists have the same rights to the roadway as any passenger vehicle driver or commerical driver.  Our goal is that all motorists travel safely across Missouri roadways.

Safe travel begins with personal responsibility to follow the rules of the roadway

MoDOT launches safety campaigns every year in hopes of increasing everyone’s awareness of the presence of motorcycles on our roadways. Likewise, motorcycle safety advocates work to increase each motorcyclist’s safety.  Motorcyclists should complete a rider safety course before they venture onto the roadways. Experienced motorcycle riders swear by the improved safety of simply completing a course.  Likewise, safety experts always recommend wearing an approved motorcycle helmet no matter the state you are traveling or how long you are riding. Helmets save lives.  Granted a motorcycle helmet does not ever promise to save every life, but shouldn’t we at least take advantage of a 60% increase in safety?

Choice Vs. Safety

While some lawmakers celebrate the “choice” of whether or not to wear a helmet, road safety experts have and continue to express grave concern about eliminating the mandatory helmet law.  As a lawyer that works with the consequences of severe injury and death, I can say hands down and without a doubt–HELMETS SAVE LIVEES.  Some advocates for doing away with the mandatory helmet law feature “choice” and “freedom” as the major appeal of doing away with the mandatory helmet law. While safety experts agree that these choices will cost in personal injury, lives and economic costs.

According to a senior director of advocacy and state legislation for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Tara Gill, “Data show that when these laws are weakened, fatalities increase, related costs increase”. These experts see the numbers from state to state and they called Parson’s decision to sign the bill, a “deadly decision”.   The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates that we will see an increase of 38% increase in fatalities as a result of the mandatory helmet law.  According to figures for 2021, we are clearly meeting that mark.  Additionally, MoDOT estimates an annual economic loss for the state of $9.1 million per motorcycle fatality.  Of course, this estimate includes the economic loss but does not begin to address the non-economic loss for families and communities.

Even advocates for repealing the mandatory helmet law could not deny that helmets are a good idea or that helmets are the greatest line of defense for motorcyclists. “We are not outlawing the helmet. We’re giving the people the choice. A helmet is a good safety device-I cannot argue that it is not”.  While advocating to give choice and outlaw the mandated helmet, not one organization disagreed that helmets save lives.

While legislatures seem to like the idea of giving “freedoms” and “choices”, the consequences remain very clear.

Failing to Wear a Helmet, Still Viewed as Unsafe by Insurnace Carriers

While Missouri may have done away with the mandatory helmet law for many riders, it will impact your claim for injuries should you fail to wear a helmet and be in a motorcycle crash.  While it really should not matter if you sustained numerous broken bones in a motorcycle crash, the insurance carrier will be difficult.  Talking about “choice”?  I will tell you that when someone is seriously injured in a motorcycle crash even though no fault of their own, they generally have no choice but to hire a lawyer.  Insurance carriers are not eager to step up and pay damages no matter the merit.

Promoting Safety & Prevention

No matter whether Missouri has a mandatory helmet law or not, the safety function of the helmet has not changed.  Motorcycle crash fatalities and serious injuries are always tragic but they become horrendously tragic when they can be prevented through safe driving and safety equipment.

Call us seven days a week for a free consultation, toll free 1.800-685-3302 or locally, 314.276.1681