How Effective are Motorcycle Helmets?


Recently in the news, there was an article about a 46-year old man who was killed in a motorcycle accident.

As he approached a major intersection, he used his brakes at the last second rather than casually slowing down, according to the Highway Patrol officer.

“Suffering From Severe Head And Torso Injuries, The Victim Wasn’t Wearing A Helmet…”

The motorcyclist skidded into the middle of the intersection and tipped the motorcycle onto its side. He and the bike continued to slide to the opposite side of the road where he crashed into a wooden sign post.

The man wasn’t wearing a helmet; he suffered serious injuries to his head and torso. He also lost his arm. He was taken by air to a nearby hospital where he died from his injuries.


Stories like this one are heard all too frequently; severe head and traumatic brain injuries are commonly the result of motorcycle accidents. 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%.

According 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.

Helmets can help prevent or mitigate serious injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states, “out of every 100 fatal motorcycle collisions and accidents in which the drivers were not wearing helmets, at least 37 lives could have been spared had helmet been worn.” In addition, the reduction of injuries if people had worn a helmet during non-fatal accidents is enormous.

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 is 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.


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.

The California Vehicle Code Section 27803 states,

“A driver and any passenger shall wear a safety helmet that complies with the standards established by the U. S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle.”

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.


  1. If you did not sustain any head, neck or shoulder injuries, a helmet is typically irrelevant to your claim
  2. If you weren’t wearing a helmet, your case will be extremely difficult to prove
  3. If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, regardless if you were wearing a helmet or not, a personal injury attorney who has been successful in motorcycle accident cases can help you through the legal process and tell you about your rights.

Injuries from motorcycle accidents can be very dangerous. It’s possible to suffer head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, including broken necks, crushed bones, internal injuries, amputation, torn ligaments and more. Being involved in a motorcycle accident can cause catastrophic injuries that could cause you to require treatment and care for the remainder of your life. You need to have a motorcycle accident attorney on your side that will be able to help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

Contact the San Bernardino and Redlands personal injury attorneys at Welebir Law, we aim to help.


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