Across the United States, regulatory authorities and motorcyclists have battled over mandatory helmet laws. This has been a controversial issue for many years, as many motorcyclists have objected to what they perceive as government overreach in regulating behaviors. As a result, several U.S. states have eliminated mandatory motorcycle helmet laws in recent years. The elimination of mandatory helmet laws is not without its consequences, however. Helmet use is down across the board, but motorcycle accidents are on the rise.
Statistics on Motorcycle Crashes
As recently as 2015, nearly 5000 people died in motorcycle crashes in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That figure is an increase of over eight percent from motorcycle crash deaths in 2014.
In the 2015 tally of motorcycle deaths, 40% of the riders killed were not wearing helmets. This is a staggering figure that points toward the need for motorcycle helmet legislation. For the states that eliminated mandatory helmets, head injuries and deaths among motorcyclists increased dramatically. Michigan and Florida were two of the states that did away with mandatory helmet laws. Among the states that do not require motorcyclists to wear helmets, the helmet wear rate is about 50%. In states where helmet use is mandatory, there is near 100% compliance.
Lax enforcement of helmet laws and misunderstanding of laws requiring helmets may contribute to the death toll. When the state of Florida eliminated mandatory helmet laws, motorcyclists were required to obtain at least $10,000 in health insurance coverage in order to ride on state roads without a helmet. Many motorcyclists did not understand this legal requirement, choosing to forgo both helmets and health insurance. As a result, medical expenses from motorcycle-related head injuries turned dramatically upward, costing state healthcare providers millions of dollars in treatments.
Motorcycling is a great way to enjoy the scenery; it is a popular recreation among adults, with over 8 million motorcycles registered in the U.S. alone. Many people rely on their motorcycles for transportation, using them to supplement or replace automobiles. However, motorcycles are at risk on U.S. roads, with fatality rates six times the rate of passenger car occupants.
Just like automobile insurance, most states require some form of insurance for motorcycle registration. These insurance policies are designed to help protect against financial losses arising from property damage or injuries that occur in motorcycle crashes. It can be argued that this is a critical step toward improving safety for motorcyclists.
Even if mandatory helmet laws are not in effect, safety experts and motorcycling advocacy groups strongly recommend wearing helmets every time a motorcycle is used. A properly-fitting, DOT-approved helmet greatly reduces the risk of serious, or even fatal, head injuries if a motorcycle accident should occur. Protect your health, your life, and your family by wearing a helmet, even if not required by law.
This article was written by All County Insurance Services, Inc., a comprehensive California insurance provider.