On September 11th, the NY Times published an
article that the rise of motorcycle deaths has renewed the helmet law
debate. The article reported that the National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB) reports that "motorcycles make up 1% of vehicle traffic
and 10% of highway deaths" and that the relaxing of many states
helmet laws are partly to blame.
The helmet law debate has been going on for along time. There
are riders who believe that making it a law to wear a helmet infringes
on their rights and freedom to live their life as they choose. Then
there are those who believe that wearing a helmet is a necessary part
of their gear and wouldn't consider riding without one.
Let's look at the statistics. In 2004, a study conducted by
Umesh Shankar at the National Center for Statistics and Analysis/NHTSB
reported on fatality data for motorcyclists. This is a very interesting
look at the number of riders killed by year from 1997-2003 (to read
the data for yourself go to www.nhtsa.gov).
Except for a slight decrease in 1998, fatalities have increased
every year since 1999 in all age groups but with the highest increase
in the over 50 age range (+18%). We know that during this time period,
many baby boomers (men and women) are buying either their first motorcycle
or re-entering after the raising the children.
Now let's look at the state helmet laws. In 1975, 47 states
required a helmet while operating a motorcycle. Today, only 20 (go to
www.ama-cycle.org for requirements state by state). Remember, the NTSB
said that relaxed helmet laws are partly to blame. Well, yes. If I have
an accident while riding w/o a helmet and hit my head, then it is probably
safe to say I will suffer a major head trauma or die. Soft tissue and
bone usually lose when they hit asphalt or concrete. Of course, there
are other factors that contribute to the accident where you might smash
your grey matter onto the road (riding ability/human error, road conditions,
traffic, motorcycle mechanical failure ect..).
There are studies out there that report that wearing an approved
DOT helmet (no, not those chip bowls some riders wear) decrease the
fatality risk by 37%. That says volumes.
There are many reasons why motorcyclist suffer fatalities and/or
have accidents. (Pleae see related news item Interesting
Statistics.) But no matter what the reason may be, wearing
the right gear will provide the rider with the greatest protection.
Helmets protect what makes us who we are.
here to read an oposing viewpoint on helmet laws and here
for a supporting viewpoint.)
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