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How Effective is Motorcycle Helmet Use?

With May being Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we are all encouraged to watch out and be aware of motorcyclists while we’re driving, and to share the road with all other drivers, regardless of the sizes of their vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also highlighted a specific concern related to motorcycle helmet use. While fatalities from motorcycle crashes have increased, the number of motorcyclists wearing helmets has decreased, with 60 percent donning helmets in 2012 compared to 66 percent in 2011.

A decline in helmet use raises serious concerns, as head injuries are the leading cause of death when it comes to motorcycle accidents. According to the NHTSA, in 2012 alone, 1,699 lives were saved because of motorcycle helmet use, and another 781 motorcyclists could have been saved if they had worn helmets.

Only nineteen states – among them, California – have universal helmet laws that require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since the implementation of the universal helmet law in California in 1992, the number of motorcycle fatalities in California decreased by 37 percent. California is currently ranked 15th in the United States for lives saved and economic costs saved as a result of helmet use.

Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent and the risk of head injury by 69 percent. These statistics, provided by the CDC, illustrate the importance of helmet use in reducing the fatalities and injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes. The NHTSA also sponsored a study to address the concerns of motorcyclists that helmets interfered with vision and hearing. The study found that motorcycle helmets do not interfere with either the rider’s vision or his or her hearing.