Motorcycle crashes are in the news all too often. And unfortunately, those accident reports are many times reporting that the crash was fatal. Motorcycles, though a popular means of transportation, can be quite dangerous even when all the recommended safety measures are taken. In just the last week, there have been numerous news reports of injuries and deaths related to motorcycle accidents. (Stories posted between Feb. 1 and Feb. 5, 2016.)
- In Granbury, Texas a man was injured on a motorcycle that collided with a truck on US 377.
- In Woburn, Massachusetts a man was killed after hitting a parked van while on a motorcycle.
- In Hayward, California a motorcyclist died after hitting a truck. He was thrown from his bike and then struck by the truck. He was driving in between lanes at the time (lane-splitting), which is legal in California.
- In Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia a motorcyclist collided with a truck at an intersection and passed away.
Nationally, nearly 5,000 people were killed while riding motorcycles in 2012 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Another 93,000 were injured while riding motorcycles the same year. These numbers increased from 2011, with 7% more deaths and 15% more injuries in 2012. The NHTSA report includes "mopeds, two- or three-wheeled motorcycles, off-road motorcycles, scooters, mini bikes, and pocket bikes" in its definition of motorcycles. However, the report stated that the majority of fatalities (93%) recorded were on two-wheeled motorcycles.
Because of the dangers that motorcycles can pose it is important to take proper safety measures in order to reduce the risk of injury. As head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes, one of the most important things a motorcycle rider can do is wear a helmet. The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,699 motorcyclists in 2012. Overall, helmets help to reduce the risk of head injuries by 69% and are 37% effective in preventing motorcycle crash fatalities. Riders who do not wear helmets are 40% more likely to die in a crash according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With the effectiveness of helmets, it is surprising that every state doesn't require every motorcyclist to wear helmets. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are laws requiring helmets for every rider in 19 states and the District of Columbia. 28 states have partial laws, which require only certain riders to wear helmets. For example, Arizona requires riders 17 and under to wear helmets. Pennsylvania requires riders 20 and under to wear helmets. Three states: New Hampshire, Illinois, and Iowa have no helmet law. However, the states that have enacted universal helmet laws (that is laws that require all riders to wear a helmet) have found these laws to be effective according to the CDC. For example, California enacted a helmet law in 1992 and helmet use increased from 50% to 99%. Louisiana enacted a universal helmet law in 2004 and saw helmet use increase in the state from 60% to 99%.
Motorcycle accidents can lead to significant injuries or death especially if care is not taken by both the motorcyclist and by other drivers on the road. Because motorcycle accidents can be so dangerous, using helmets is always advisable as they can significantly reduce the likelihood of injury and death. Perhaps one day more states will see the efficacy of universal helmet laws and pass legislation requiring every rider in their state to be properly protected when out for a ride.