Every time bikersget on the road without a helmet, they are putting their lives at risk. Thehelmet law debate for motorcyclists has been a public controversy for quite sometime.
Is a state justified to force motorcyclists to wear helmets? Despite substantial evidencethat motorcycle helmet laws reduce fatalities and serious injuries, only 19states currently require all riders no matter their age to wear helmets (Motorcycles,n.d.).
Many states have started to take a stand on this controversy and madethis a “universal” law. How long will it take for North Dakota to take a stepin protecting all of their citizens? Wearing a helmetis like wearing a seatbelt. Not only does it protect the individual, but it alsoprotects them against other drivers. Individuals who ride motorcycle do nothave any protection compared to those driving cars. So why is wearing aseatbelt mandatory yet wearing a helmet while riding motorcycle is not? In2014, the federal government estimated that per mile traveled the number of deathson motorcycles was over 27 times the number than in cars (Motorcycles, n.d.).
Whendriving a vehicle, you have exterior protection, air bags, seatbelts, and all vehiclesgo through crash test courses. Motorcycles have none of these safeguards, theonly safeguard available is a helmet. Studieshave proven that helmets are effective in reducing head injuries and death becausemost of the impact is absorbed by the helmet, rather than the head and brain. Thefederal government has estimated that helmets reduce the risk of head injuriesby 69% and death by 37% (Motorcycles,n.d.). Riders who do not wear helmets are three times more likely tosustain brain injuries if a crash was to occur (Motorcycles, n.d.
). A helmet is crucial inprotecting a motorcyclist head.Any state thatrequires helmet use must comply with the United States Department ofTransportation (DOT)’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (MotorcycleHelmet Laws, n.d.
). Although all states highly recommend that individualsshould wear helmets each state legal helmet requirements are different (MotorcycleHelmet Laws, n.d.). In 1967, each state was required to establishhelmet use laws to qualify for certain federal funding (Motorcycles, n.d.).
However, in 1976, multiple states successfully petitioned the Congress and gotrid of these regulations. There are currently three states (Illinois, Iowa, andNew Hampshire) that have no motorcycle helmet use laws (Motorcycles, n.d.). Theother 47 states obey two types of laws for helmet use.
Nineteen states follow auniversal helmet law, which is mandated for all riders no matter their age. Theother law that requires only some motorcyclists to wear helmets is in place in28 states is called a partial law. This law is only mandated for some riderssuch as those under a specified age, beginner bike riders (most often definedas having less than one year of experience), or those who do not meet thestates requirements for medical insurance coverage (Motor Vehicle Injury-Motorcycle Helmets: Universal Helmet Laws, n.d.). In North Dakota, we have a partial law that only requires motorcyclistswho are under 18 years of age, and their passengers to wear helmets (NorthDakota State Highway Patrol, n.d.).
Our neighboring states; Montana, Wyoming,South Dakota and Minnesota are also partial law states. The closest universalstate would be Nebraska. Unforeseen accidents can happen at any time. Why are we not protecting allof our citizens who ride motorcycles? Accidents can happen to both beginner andexperienced riders. Helmetlaw opponents claim that helmet laws impose on individual rights (MotorVehicle Safety, 2015).
Theyalso claim that helmets can interfere with their vision or hearing (MotorVehicle Safety, 2015). Many individuals believe that wearing a helmetshould be a matter of choice but riding without a helmet has consequences thataffect more than just the motorcyclist (Eltorai, et al.,2016). Numerous motorcyclists may lack health careinsurance or are covered by government services, so the public ultimatelyshares many of the costs, along with possible long-term care costs if there wasto be an accident (Motor Vehicle Safety, 2015). Thesecosts include rehabilitation, professional fees, and possible hospital readmissionsdue to complications (Eltorai,et al.
, 2016). Primary hospitalization andemergency treatment account for only 67 % of total medical expenses inmotorcycle accident victims. Medical and productivity costs saved fromhelmet use are estimated to be $1,316,469.
58per accident, $186,434.37perserious injury, and $8166.06per minor injury (Eltorai,et al.
, 2016). Therefore,universal laws provide greater safety and cost benefits (Motor Vehicle Safety, 2015). Mandating motorcycle helmet usage will require a system wide change. The most effective way forstates to save lives and save money is a federal universal helmet law (MotorVehicle Safety, 2017). Byimplementing laws such as those with seat belts, motorcyclists will wearhelmets more often. States that have enacted universal helmet laws discoveredthat the use rates increased to 90 percent or higher immediately after thelaw became effective, compared to 50 percent or lower before the law (MotorVehicle Safety, 2015). Noone wants to receive multiple tickets for violating the law. Mandatory laws are sometimes needed to ensure oursafety.
Education and prevention are key topreventing injuries to individuals. Motorcyclists cancrash outside their licensed state, causing not only a public issue, but afederal healthcare issue (Eltorai, et al., 2016). Since this is a public healthmatter, public health nurses can bring awareness to the community and educate individualson the importance of wearing helmets. Other people that can help bringawareness are healthcare providers, insurers, and the public.
Individuals whohave experienced motorcycle accidents and survived due to wearing their helmets,or those who have had loved ones pass away due to not wearing a helmet can makean impact on others. Each year, theUnited States could save more than $1billion if all motorcyclists wore helmets (MotorVehicle Safety, 2017). By enforcing motorcyclists towear helmets we will save lives, and reduce injuries. Helmet use saved an estimated 1,772 lives in 2015 (MotorVehicle Safety, 2017). The single most critical thing you can do to improveyour chances of surviving a crash is to wear a securely fastened, DOT approved helmet. By wearing a helmet if there is an accident itmay decrease medical costs along with saving your life. A motorcyclist whorefuses to wear a helmet will more likely to wear one after experiencing anaccident.
Prevention is key, and the answer is helmet use, it’s time toimplement federal universal helmet use.