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Despite deaths, motorcycle groups strive to stop helmet laws

In a highly touted safety achievement, deaths on the nation's roads and highways have fallen sharply in recent years, to the lowest total in more than a half-century. But motorcyclists have missed out on that dramatic improvement, and the news for them has been increasingly grim.
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2 comments on this story

Jun 8, 2012, 9:03 am
-0 +1

It is an interesting yet complex topic. I always wear a Snell-approved helmet and wouldn’t feel comfortable without one. I also founded one of the top riding schools on the east coast.

Modern helmets prevent most all traumatic brain injuries. Non-fatal traumatic brain injuries happen when the brain impacts the skull, then (generally) rotates against the rough inner surface, tearing brain matter and producing swelling. Fatal brain injuries have other types too.

Still, when Florida repealed their helmet law, half the riders immediately stopped wearing one. But traumatic brain injuries only only rose by about 10% (rather than the 50% one might expect.)

The reason appears to be that riders who didn’t want to wear helmets had always been wearing fake (novelty) helmets like the one in the picture above. These provide no protection from brain injury—zero. So the injuries were already happening before repeal.

So unless laws are enforced with zero tolerance for fake helmets, they have only marginal effect. People who want to protect their brain will wear helmets and people who don’t will wear non-protective fakes. I see these fake helmets every day.

It may well be that our public policy dollar is better spent on education.

Jun 8, 2012, 7:30 pm
-0 +1

In 1997, there were 2,116 fatalities for 3,826,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.055% of the motorcyclists were killed.

In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.053% of the motorcyclists were killed.

So we have more than doubled the motorcycle population. Fact.

And we have actually reduced fatalities. Fact.

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