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Study: Helmets Help Motorcyclists Save Faces in Accidents

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Broken noseA recent study finds that a motorcyclist who wears a helmet is less than half as likely to break his or her nose or dent his or her jaw in an accident than a motorcyclist who wears no helmet. The study, published in the Archives of Surgery, was led by Dr. Joseph Crompton, a surgeon from the University of California, Los Angeles, according to Genevra Pittman for Reuters.

To conduct the study, Dr. Crompton and his team analyzed information from the National Trauma Data Bank, including records of more than 46,000 motorcyclists taken to hospitals after crashes from 2002 through 2005. About 1,700 of those bikers suffered nose injuries, 2,300 had eye injuries, 800 broke their jawbones, and 1,400 had facial bruises, Pittman reports.

Dr. Crompton said that while there is much documentation showing that helmets protect bikers from traumatic head injuries and death in crashes, the study shows that the 77% of motorcyclists involved in those crashes were 60% less likely to suffer any serious face-related harm, as compared with the helmet-free riders.

Dr. Crompton said that in light of the precipitous increase in both the number of motorcycles on the road and the number of collisions involving them, there is an ongoing debate about whether states should require motorcyclists to wear helmets, Pittman reports. The number of states with helmet laws has decreased in the last few decades because of lobbying efforts by the motorcycle community, Pittman notes.

A July 2012 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Motorcycle and bicycle helmet use laws” chart shows that although 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, 28 states (including Colorado) have laws requiring only some of them to wear a helmet. According to the chart, Colorado’s helmet law covers motorcycle drivers and passengers ages 17 and younger.

Regarding his study, Dr. Crompton, who rides a motorcycle, told Reuters: “I think it certainly supports the idea that there should be mandatory helmet laws.” In an article on AllAbout Bikes magazine, Anthony Faccenda quotes Dr. Terrence O’Keeffe, a surgeon from the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson:

When I see people in the (emergency room), I can usually tell immediately what kind of bike they were on and if they were wearing their helmet or not. There’s not a single study that suggests motorcycle helmets are a bad thing when it comes to motorcyclists.

AllAbout Bikes writes that the group Biker’s Rights asserts that the reason fatalities decrease in states with mandatory helmet laws is because those laws in effect reduce the number of motorcyclists on the road:

‘Officials often state that helmet laws reduce accidents. A helmet cannot stop an accident. But… a helmet law does reduce riding. Per the DMV, California has 40% less bikes registered today then in 1992 when the state enacted its helmet law! And of those that continue to ride… they ride less often. The math: less bikers riding less often = less targets for cars to hit, which therefore = less accidents,’ says Biker’s Rights.

Image by Tim Green aka atoach, used under its Creative Commons license.


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