Motorcyclists' Injuries Rise With the Decline in State Helmet Laws
According to a recent report by the State of Michigan, medical claims for motorcycle crashes rose by more than 20% after the state stopped requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. This report was provided by an insurance industry study.
Although deaths from motorcycle accidents have been on the rise, many states have abandoned mandatory helmet use. For example, in Michigan, it required motorcycle riders to wear helmets for more than 40 years until state legislators changed the law. Peculiarly the state law provides that only riders that are younger than 21 must wear helmets when on a motorcycle.
In a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, the average insurance payment on a motorcycle injury claim was $5,410 in the two years before the helmet law was changed and $7,257 after the law on helmets was abandoned. This was an increase of 34%.
Illinois’ increase in motorcycle medical injury claims was about 22% over two years. Illinois law does not require the use of helmets. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reported that the cost per injury in a motorcycle accident is significantly higher when motorcycle riders are without helmets. Head injuries are the most common cause of severe injury and death in motorcycle crashes.
It has been also reported that many motorcyclists ride without motorcycle licenses. In Illinois, a motorcycle license is required on each vehicle on Illinois streets and highways. In one report it was shown that motorcycle riders without licenses make up an increasingly larger share of fatalities and injuries. This may be because obtaining a motorcycle license requires safety courses in some states.
In a national survey, it was shown that over the last 14 or 15 years, motorcycle deaths have been on the rise. An all time high was reached of more than 5,000 deaths reported in 2012 according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Twenty-eight states require only some motorcyclists to wear helmets; those are usually new riders or younger riders that are in that group. Three states have no helmet laws at all.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 97% of motorcyclists in the states who require helmet use were wearing helmets compared with just 58% of motorcyclists wearing helmets in states without laws requiring helmet use.
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