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Universal Helmet Laws the Key to Improved Motorcycle Safety

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has unequivocally come out in favor of universal helmet laws that would require motorcycle drivers and their passengers to wear a helmet every time they get on a bike. Recent studies justify expanding the helmet laws nationwide, according to the CDC.

According to a CDC report issued earlier this month, cost savings in states that apply strict helmet laws are four times greater per registered motorcycle than those states with no helmet laws. Officials point to the year-on-year increase in motorcycle-related road deaths and serious injuries as further cause for implementing the comprehensive helmet law.

Road deaths in virtually every other road user category have been steadily declining, and in 2011 were the lowest since 1949. However, motorcycle fatalities have been increasing at a rate of about 10 percent per year over the past decade.

When they don’t have to wear helmets, motorcycle riders tend not to…

In states that have universal helmet laws, riders and passengers are far more likely to wear protective helmets than those in states with no such laws, according to the CDC report. The study found that:

  • From 2008 to 2010, in states that have universal helmet laws, just 12 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were not wearing helmets at the time of the accident.
  • By comparison, in those states with just partial helmet laws, almost two out of every three (64 percent) of riders involved in fatal crashes were not wearing helmets. Partial helmet laws are those that require only certain riders—usually those under the age of 21—to wear a helmet.
  • In states with no helmet laws, a shocking 79 percent of riders were not wearing helmets when they crashed.

Helmets save money…and lives

The amount of money and lives that would be saved if all states adopted universal helmet laws make for very interesting reading, particularly in these economically fraught times, when all states’ resources are stretched to breaking point.

CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., revealed the extent of the savings in medical, productivity and other costs that could be made if all motorcyclists wore helmets. In 2010 alone (the last year for which definitive statistics are available), the CDC study showed:

  • California alone saved $394 million in a single year. The state has introduced a universal helmet law, as 10 percent of all U.S. motorcycle fatalities occur in California.
  • New Mexico has a partial helmet law and saved just $2.6 million in 2010, the lowest savings of any state with any kind of helmet law in place.
  • Across America, helmet use is reckoned to have saved more than $3 billion in economic costs.
  • If universal helmet laws were introduced in every state, the CDC study says an additional $1.4 billion could have been saved in 2010 alone.
  • In stark contrast, medical care costs and lost productivity as a direct result of motorcycle accidents totaled a staggering $12 billion in 2010.

The CDC figures are not randomly plucked from thin air. To achieve the final figures, researchers carefully studied data from two separate National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports. First, they looked at the 2008 to 2010 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Then they analyzed information from a study that looks at the economic costs of each individual accident.

The results give what both CDC and NHTSA officials say are accurate estimates on the money that could be saved if universal helmet laws were introduced nationwide. The cost savings come in such areas as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Emergency services costs
  • Work-related lost income
  • Household and work-related productivity losses
  • Insurance administration costs
  • Legal costs resulting from deaths and serious injuries caused by motorcycle crashes

Motorcycles are naturally more dangerous than cars. Would helmets really help?

While savings can be talked about in terms of billions of dollars, Oregon motorcycle accident attorneys say the costs in terms of the tragic loss of human life far outweighs monetary considerations. Yet every year, the numbers are getting worse. Consider these statistics:

  • In 2010 alone, motorcycle crashes killed a shocking 4,502 people on American roads.
  • While vehicle deaths are falling in virtually every other category, motorcycle traffic deaths have increased by more than 50 percent in the last 10 years alone.
  • The number of people over the age of 40 killed in motorcycle accidents has more than doubled in the last 10 years, and the number of over-50’s killed has skyrocketed to almost four times the year 2000 levels.

Motorcyclists are more than four times more likely to be killed in traffic accidents and more than 37 times more likely to be injured in collisions than people in cars, SUVs and trucks. Would helmets really do anything to improve those figures?

The answer is yes, according to CDC figures, which show that:

  • Helmets prevent no fewer than 37 percent of crash deaths among riders.
  • For passengers, helmets save even more lives. CDC says wearing a helmet prevents more than 40 percent of crash deaths.
  • Helmets can also save riders and passengers from serious injuries. They prevent 13 percent of serious injuries, and they also cut back on minor injuries to passengers and riders by about 8 percent.

According to CDC officials, adopting universal helmet laws nationwide would be the single most effective strategy in bringing down the unacceptably high number of annual motorcycle fatalities. However, as of May, 2012, only 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, while 28 states had partial helmet laws, while three states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire) have no helmet laws whatever.

From all the statistics, studies and research available, the CDC claim that wearing a helmet will save lives seems indisputable. Portland motorcycle attorneys have far too often seen the devastating results of motorcycle accidents, including devastating, life-changing (and all too often life-ending) injuries.

The costs to victims in both monetary and physical damage is almost beyond comprehension, so if you’ve been involved in an Oregon motorcycle accident and it wasn’t your fault, it’s important that the person who caused the accident is financially responsible for looking after you and your family. To make sure this happens, once you’ve received the proper medical treatment, contact a good Portland personal injury attorney with extensive experience in motorcycle accident cases .

Remember, motorcycle accidents are not the same as car accidents, so make sure your lawyer has a proven track record of getting results for motorcycle accident victims. That way, you stand the best chance of getting the compensation you and your family will need to begin down the road to a full recovery.