Although too many skip the protection, certain bikers are more careful.
Laws on helmet use vary greatly from state to state. This hasn’t always been true.
Once upon a time, state governments were required to enact helmet laws in order to receive certain federal funds earmarked for safety and for highway construction. Over the years, though, states have pressured the federal government to drop that requirement.
So today only 19 states and the District of Columbia require anyone riding a motorcycle to also wear a helmet. Other states, including Colorado, require only that riders 17 years old or younger wear a helmet. (A few require helmets of riders 18 or 20 years old and younger.) Illinois and Iowa alone do not mandate helmet use for any motorcyclists or their passengers.
The weakening of legislative mandates in some states has probably increased the number of injuries and deaths due to motorcycle accidents. But there’s some good news too.
Despite the risk, fewer motorcyclists are securing their helmets.
Motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed in a crash than those involved in accidents with passenger vehicles.
There are about 263 million vehicles on the road today. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that in 2017, there were 8.4 million motorcycles on the road (up from 4.2 million in 2002). Colorado alone has nearly 187,000 registered motorcycles.
Sounds like a lot of bikes. But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as of a few years ago, only 3 percent of all registered vehicles were motorcycles and less than 1 percent of all vehicle miles were being traveled by motorcycles. Yet in 2017, motorcyclists were involved in 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. A leading cause of injury and death on the road is speeding.
More consistent donning of helmets would help. But, in general, use of them has declined in recent years. In 2000, for instance, 71 percent of motorcycle riders wore a protective helmet; by 2017 only 65 percent of riders were wearing one. But these numbers are starting to tick up a bit. Safety officials hope the trend will continue, since wearing a helmet is the first line of defense for anyone on a motorcycle.
The good news: more motorcyclists using high-speed roads are strapping on their helmets.
A 2017 survey showed that helmet use among those who travel on expressways or interstates had jumped to over 80 percent. A year earlier, only two-thirds of such motorcyclists had reported using a helmet.
Helmet use was also up—by 15 percent—among bikers riding in heavily congested areas.
Regardless of state laws or what kind of road you’re on, you should wear a helmet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- A helmet reduces the risk of a fatal injury by 37 percent.
- Helmets reduce head injuries by nearly 70 percent.
- In 2016, helmets saved nearly 1,900 lives.
- If everyone who had ridden a motorcycle in 2016 had also worn a helmet, an estimated 802 more people would have survived a crash.
Bottom line: simply putting on a helmet can greatly reduce your chances of injury or death in the event of a motorcycle accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle or other auto accident, contact personal injury attorney Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 to schedule your free initial consultation.