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Saving Lives: Why All States Should Require Motorcyclists and Passengers to Wear Helmets

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Saving Lives: Why All States Should Require Motorcyclists and Passengers to Wear Helmets

Janeal Pope
Assignment 3: A Problem Exist
ENG215: Research &Writing
Pro. Dorothy J Valentine
May 3, 2014


The impact is horrendous. It feels like I am rolling and tumbling forever. I feel my skin burning from sliding on the pavement; my head was traumatized as I continued to roll before finally coming to a stop. My husband recalls the night of his terrible motorcycle accident. Motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets in all states in order to be consistent, to avoid serious head injuries, and to reduce the amount of deaths due to accidents.

Inconsistent The first universal motorcycle helmet law was legislated in 1967, and accepted in all but three states. Currently, half the states require helmets for all motorcyclists. Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire are the only states that don’t require motorcyclists to wear helmets (Governors Highway Safety Association, 2014). The federal government has twice enacted universal helmet laws, and then repealed them. In 1976, Congress revoked federal authority to assess penalties for noncompliance and states began to weaken helmet laws to apply, only to young or novice riders (Governors Highway Safety Association, 2014). Thirty-one states have had a universal helmet law repealed (undo law: to officially end the validity of something such as a law). The fact that the law has been repealed on several occasions demonstrates the inconsistency in regards to states requiring motorcyclists and passengers to wear helmets.
Head Injury A head injury is any trauma that injures the scalp, skull, or brain (National Library of Medicine, 2014). According to the Centers for Disease Control, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of deaths and permanent disabilities. It accounts for thirty percent of all injury—related deaths in the United States. These injuries not only affect the individuals involved, but the economy as a whole. In 2010 alone, it costs the economy an estimated $76.5 billion. Why does it affect the economy in such a tremendous way? According to the Centers for Disease Control, motorcycle crashes consume public funds for emergency response, emergency room costs, and insurance premiums. The average charge for inpatient care for motorcyclists with head injuries is more than twice the charge for motorcyclists receiving care for other injuries (NHTSA, 2014). The economic burden from crash – related injuries and deaths in one year alone totaled $12 billion (Kirk, 2013). A study of 105 motorcyclists hospitalized at a major trauma center determined that the public pays 63 percent of the care received. On average, it costs $1,212,800 per fatality a year including medical costs, household and work productivity losses, and excluded costs (e.g. property damage and travel delay) (NNHTSA, 2014). According to the Centers for Disease Control, unhelmeted riders are less likely to have health insurance and are more likely to have their medical expenses paid by government-funded healthcare.
Lives Lost In 2011, 4612 motorcyclists and passengers were killed in motorcycle crashes that made up 14 percent of all road traffic deaths (National Highway Safety Administration, 2011). In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System; a census of fatal traffic crashes in the United States. The findings indicated that on average, 12 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing helmets in states with universal helmet laws, compared with 64 percent in partial helmet states and 79 percent in states without a helmet law. From 2008 to 2010, a total of 14,283 motorcyclists were killed in crashes, 6,057 of whom were not wearing a helmet (CDC, 2014). Out of twenty states with a universal helmet law, 739 motorcyclists were fatally injured not wearing a helmet, compared to 4,814 in the twenty-seven states with partial helmet laws and 504 in the three states without a helmet law. Moreover, motorcycles are not the safest mode of transportation because they lack the outer protection that cars provide, therefore, when one crashes, the results are usually more serious. Statistics gathered by the Safety Nationwide Insurance Enterprise, show that an unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer fatal head injuries and death rates are twice as high in states without the helmet law.
Helmets are the best way to reduce motorcycle deaths and injuries, that’s why all motorcyclists should wear helmets and why all states need a helmet law that covers all riders. Helmet laws will achieve high helmet use, which in turn saves lives and reduces head injury. Furthermore, helmet laws significantly reduces the strain on public resources. “Citizens must fight for every penny at the state government level and recognize the tradeoffs. In the case of motorcycle helmet laws, clearly the money spent on head injuries means that less money will be available to pay police officers and teachers” (Judith Lee Stone, 2014). Let’s examine some of the many advantages of having helmet laws in all states.

Cost Saving A recent morbidity and mortality weekly report study shows that annual cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws for riders and passengers were nearly four times more per registered motorcycle than in states without them (Occupational Health & Safety, 2012). According to CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, “increasing motorcycle helmet use saves lives and money. In 2010, more than $3 billion in economic costs were saved due to helmet use and another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.” Injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes have a huge impact on the economy. Medical costs, lost productivity, rehabilitation, law enforcement and emergency services, legal services, and workplace distribution are some of the factors that are impacted by these injuries. If all states were to enact helmet laws, this could prevent hundreds of injuries as well as help save in economic costs.
Reduces Head Injury and Death Wearing a helmet reduces the severity of injury and potential trauma to the head, and the probability of death. Although a helmet doesn’t provide total protection against head injury or death, it decreases the likelihood of both. Statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Administration, shows that helmet use is thirty seven percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists. In addition to preventing fatal injuries, helmets prevents eye injuries, and improves the riders’ ability to hear.

Conclusion Every year thousands of people die in motorcycle accidents and head injury is the leading cause. It accounts for 76 percent of fatalities in motorcycle crashes, many of which could have been prevented had the rider/riders been wearing a helmet (Who Helmet, 2014). The first universal helmet law was legislated in 1967, and all but three states adopted the law. Currently, the same three states refuse to enact the universal helmet law despite increasing motorcycle fatalities in their states. Often times the public ends up footing the bill for injured riders. As a result, we the public, end up paying higher taxes. Injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes have a huge economic impact. Medical costs, lost productivity, rehabilitation, law enforcement and emergency services are some of the factors that are impacted by these fatalities and injuries. Repealing a helmet law results in increased deaths and injuries, with only thirty to forty percent of riders wearing them compared with ninety-eight to ninety- nine percent if the law is not repealed. Moreover, repealing a helmet law is inconsistent with other legislation, it is not logical to repeal a nonintrusive safety requirement for motorcyclists and not provide the same opportunity for automobile drivers to go without seatbelts, or hunters without hunter orange (smarterusa, 2010). Isn’t it up to lawmakers to ensure our safety? We as a society and individuals have to fight for what we believe is right instead of jumping on the bandwagon. Requiring all states to enact helmet laws is right; saving lives is right; being consistent is right; and saving in economic costs is right. Right?


Benefits of Universal Helmet Laws (2012).

Centers for Disease Control (2012). Motorcycle Safety. June 15, 2012/ 61(23); 425-430

Helmet Facts (2014).

Helmet Laws (2014).

Kirk, Dennis (2013). Motorcycle Helmets: To Wear or Not to Wear National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (2014). Fatality Analysis Reporting System

National Library of Medicine (2014). Head Injury

Who Helmets (2014). Helmet Laws/ Motorcycle Helmets…...

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