The Helmet Law - This Doctor's Opinion
When my children give me excuses about not wearing their bike helmets, I threaten to take them to the local hospital where they rehabilitate traumatic brain injuries. I tell them about “that kid” who crashed not wearing a bike helmet. Recently, in my state, the motorcycle helmet law was repealed. Now, I feel like grabbing those helmetless motorcyclists I see on the roads and giving them the same spiel.
Motorcycles Are a Dangerous Way to Travel
Studies show the prevalence of motorcycle use is increasing, likely due in part to rising gas prices. Motorcycles accelerate rapidly and reach high top speeds. They are less stable in emergency braking situations and are less visible to motorists.
The general trend is that motorcycle-related deaths are increasing, reaching a high of 5112 in 2008. In contrast, motor vehicle deaths are decreasing. This is likely due to improving safety factors such as better structural engineering, airbags and antilock brakes. Based on recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists are 37 times more likely to die in a traffic accident per mile traveled.
Helmets - Why They're More Than Worth It
Opponents to helmet laws site decreased visibility and hearing caused by helmet use. These accusations have not been substantiated. The fact of the matter is, when a motorcyclist crashes, there is no seatbelt to restrain the driver. They are propelled from their bike, often striking the pavement. The head is the most commonly injured part of the body leading to death upon collision with a hard surface. In fact, this is the most common cause of death among unhelmeted riders.
Helmet use decreases the risk of death from head injury, severity of head injury and recovery time and cost.
NHTSA and privately acquired data estimates that a helmet decreases the risk of death by 37- 42% in the event of a crash. When California enacted a helmet law, the helmet use rate rocketed to nearly 100% and motorcycle deaths decline by 37%. A similar situation in Nebraska decreased deaths by 22%. And guess what? When laws are enacted in an opposite fashion, deaths increase.
Simple, Deadly Math
Traumatic head injuries are devastating and prolonged hospitalization and rehabilitation are common with them. Afterward, cognitive losses often leave the victim disabled from their former livelihood. People seldom consider that, not only can the refusal to wear a motorcycle helmet cost your life, but if you are so lucky as to live, it can leave you permanently disabled.
Some that don't ride motorcycles still support non-helmeted riding based on the threat that laws prohibiting it will decrease tourism revenues. They figure if those riders do die anyhow, it's their choice and it won't affect them. However, they seldom consider that while insurance companies may foot the bill, this cost is spread to consumers via increased premiums, and if a person becomes disabled and goes on long-term disability, funds for this come from taxes. Cost also comes in dollar values - and the general public is often left with the tab.
When I see a person riding a motorcycle without a helmet, the descriptors “free” and “liberated” do not come to mind. I consider this irresponsible. Such actions may cost them their life or livelihood. And this cost may be passed along to society. The bottom line: Helmet use saves lives.
How do you feel about this issue?