According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, states with universal helmet laws saved an average of 48 lives because more motorcyclists wore helmets.
There are currently 19 states with laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. These laws are known as universal helmet laws. Twenty-eight states have laws that require some motorcyclists to wear a helmet; three states have no requirements at all.
Regardless of someone’s ability on a motorcycle, there are greater risks associated with driving a motorcycle than compared to other vehicles. Moreover, negligent drivers can cause serious injury to a motorcyclist even with a helmet.
According to the NHTSA, in 2014, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than vehicle car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics: National Overview
In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes. The number of motorcyclists on the road has increased as well, from about 8.0 million in 2009, to 8.4 million in 2014.
States with partial helmet laws focus on the age of the rider, rather than safety impacts helmets would provide in that state. Unfortunately, older motorcyclists account for more than half of all motorcyclist fatalities (54%), which mean partial helmet laws aren’t making a difference when it comes to actual risk factors for motorcyclists. NHTSA data shows that in 2014, 54 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were age 40 or over.
However, the latest research indicates that helmets reduce motorcycle fatalities by 22 to 42 percent, and brain injuries by 41 to 69 percent.
Why someone would ride a motorcycle without a helmet is clearly a personal choice in states without universal helmet laws; but injury caused by a negligent driver, drunk driver, or otherwise, will have a major impact on a person’s life, and the community at large.
Impacts of Motorcycle Injury and Death
In 2015, there were 88,000 motorcycle related injuries, which is down slightly from 92,000 in 2014. These injuries and fatalities are not only devastating for the family, there are large societal costs as well.
In a research note from an NHTSA study, in 2013, and after adjusting for inflation, the economic cost to society for each motorcyclist fatality was $1.48 million, and the comprehensive cost of each fatality was $9.71 million. Most of the comprehensive cost estimated is attributed to the lost quality of life—the pain and suffering of family and friends.
Conversely, the U.S. saves money when helmets are worn more frequently: motorcyclists that were in an accident but wearing a helmet saved the U.S. approximately $2.8 billion in 2013. The comprehensive savings for the same year was estimated at $17.3 billion.
Head injuries, road rash, muscle damage, arm and leg injuries are all common among motorcyclists that suffer an accident. These injuries can have a huge impact on the rider’s ability to perform work, care for themselves and their families, and may require long-term care and ongoing treatments.
While we encourage everyone to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, those that choose not to should still be protected from negligent drivers.
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