How Effective are Motorcycle Helmets?

iStock_000028630886_XXXLargeAccording to a U.S. Department of Transportation study on Motorcycle Helmet Effectiveness, the past 15 years have shown a significant improvement in the design and effectiveness of motorcycle helmets. They state that helmets afford a much greater degree of protection against head injury related fatalities, if they are worn at the time of the accident.

Between the years of 1993 and 2002, helmets saved the lives of 7,808 riders. However the potential for saved lives was even higher, at 11,915. Though technological improvements in the last 15 years have contributed to helmet safety, a declining use of helmets undermines this progress.

If you ride a motorcycle, the bottom line is, wearing a helmet won’t hurt you, and it may save you. According to the Institute for Highway Safety, helmets are 37% effective in preventing death, and 67% effective in preventing brain injury. Wearing a helmet could be seen as especially imperative when coupled with the federal government’s estimation that in 2011, there were 30 times the number of motorcycle deaths than those of passengers of cars for every mile traveled.

Serious head injury has always been a common fatality for motorcyclists. Unfortunately, in 2013, only 59% of fatally injured motorcyclists wore helmets. For motorcycle passengers who were fatally injured in motorcycle accidents, helmet use was even lower, at 49%.

Despite all of these gruesome facts available to the passengers and drivers, a serious contributor to whether or not they wore a helmet was state law. In states that require riders wear a helmet, 91% of the motorcycle fatalities were helmeted. This sharply contrasts with the 24% who wore helmets in fatal crashes in states that don’t require helmets by law. Unfortunately, only 19 states and Washington, D.C. have universal helmet laws, meaning they require helmets. In 28 states there are laws requiring only some riders wear helmets. There are only three states that do not have any helmet laws in place: Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire.

Wearing a helmet reduces your risk of dying in an accident by one third. While likelihood of death is still much higher than that of a passenger in a car, there is really no substantial reason for not wearing a helmet if you are a driver or passenger on a motorcycle.


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