The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a report titled "Motorcycle Helmet Use and Head and Facial Injuries." The Report has a lot of data on motorcycle crashes and the injuries the result, comparing the injuries received by those wearing helmets and those that do not.
Here are a few highlights from the report:
- The combined data set contains information on 104,472 motorcyclists involved in crashes in these 18 States during the years 2003, 2004, and 2005.
- In the data set, 57 percent of motorcyclists were helmeted at the time of the crashes and 43 percent were non-helmeted. For both groups, about 40 percent of motorcyclists were treated at hospitals or died following the crashes. However, 6.6 percent of unhelmeted motorcyclists suffered a moderate to severe head or facial injury compared to 5.1 percent of helmeted motorcyclists.
- Fifteen percent of hospital-treated helmeted motorcyclists suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared to 21 percent of hospital-treated unhelmeted motorcyclists. TBI severity varied by helmet use. Almost 9 percent of unhelmeted and 7 percent of helmeted hospital-treated motorcyclists received minor to moderate TBI. More than 7 percent of unhelmeted and 4.7 percent of hospital-treated helmeted motorcyclists sustained severe TBI.
- As of 2007, fatalities had increased for the 10th year in a row, an increase of 144 percent compared to 1997. While there has also been an increase in motorcycle registrations during this period, the rate of increase in fatalities has been greater than that of registrations.
This increase in deaths has been especially marked among riders 40 and older, who now constitute approximately half of all deaths. In 1997, this older group accounted for 33 percent of rider deaths, but had grown to 49 percent by 2007. Although fatalities increased in all age groups, the largest increase has been in the group of riders over theage of 49; thus the mean age of fatally injured motorcyclists has increased from 29.3 in 1990 to 37.9 in 2002. The overall percentage of older riders involved in crashes has increased. While younger people are still riding motorcycles, they now constitute a smaller proportion of fatalities.
Despite the burden of injury associated with motorcycle crashes, at least 6 States have repealed or weakened laws that require the use of motorcycle helmets since 1995. Also, 3 States don’t have a helmet law of any kind.
I am a motorcycle rider and cannot image riding without a helmet. Fellow riders, take this study to heart and wear a helmet, whether you are riding on-road or off-road. Insist that your passenger wear a helmet. And, always remember that when you are riding on a motorcycle the fact that you have the right-of-way only gives your lawyer something to argue to a jury after you get hurt – it doesn’t mean that you will avoid an injury if another driver hits you. Always assume that the other driver is totally distracted and unaware of your presence. Be especially careful at intersections and on curvy roads – stay back from the center line.