Motorcycle ownership is at an all-time high in the United States. Likewise, motorcycle related deaths and traumatic brain injuries are also increasing. According to the CDC, motorcyclist death rates increased 55% from 2001 to 2008 (1.12 per 100,000 persons in 2001 to 1.74 per 100,000 persons in 2008).
- In 2010, more than 50% of the people killed in motorcycle crashes were 40 and older
- In 2010, while only 10% of riders killed in crashes were women, 89% of passengers killed in crashes were women
- In 2010, 40% of motorcycle operators and 50% of motorcycle passengers who died were not wearing helmets
- Unhelmeted motorcycle riders are 2 times as likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury from a crash
Statistics courtesy of the CDC report, Motorcycle Safety
According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director, the role of the CDC “is to identify ways to prevent injury and death and rigorously check what works and what does not work. For motorcycle safety, the research shows that universal helmet laws are the most effective way to reduce the number of deaths and traumatic brain injuries that result for crashes.”
What works to reduce deaths and traumatic brain injuries?
The CDC reports that the only scientifically proven method of reducing death and traumatic brain injuries in motorcycle crashes is universal helmet laws. “Helmets are estimated to reduce the likelihood of death in a motorcycle crash by 37%. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,544 motorcycle riders in 2010 alone.” In addition, helmets reduced the risk of head injury to riders in a crash by 69%. CDC report, Motorcycle Safety.
Full faced helmets offer the most protection to riders and passengers. Studies show that the impact point on helmets is mostly in the lower portion of the helmet which would cover the chin and mouth area of the person and the region of the helmet just above the face shield covering the forehead area.
The impact of universal helmet laws
The percentage of riders who use helmets in states with universal helmet laws, laws requiring all riders to wear a helmet regardless of age or riding experience, is significantly more than use in states with no helmet or partial helmet laws.
In 2010, 42% of motorcycle riders who were fatally injured were not wearing a helmet. And, although helmets saved about 1,500 lives, it is estimated that another 700 could have been saved if the rider had been wearing a helmet.
Where Texas stands
In 1997, Texas went from a universal helmet law state to a partial helmet law state. Today, Texas only requires motorcycle riders who are 20 years old or younger to wear a helmet. Texas is not alone though. Throughout the United States, approximately half of the states, 28, have only partial helmet laws. Twenty states have universal helmet laws.
During the first full year following the change in the helmet law in Texas, deaths rose 31% compared to the year prior. Based upon a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association of death rates for motorcyclists in 2010 and 2011, Texas by far had the most deaths reported.