The Helmet Law Debate Again...
Alex Pesacreta
September, 2007


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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

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 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.

Ride Safe.


(Please click here to read an oposing viewpoint on helmet laws and here for a supporting viewpoint.)

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