Motorcycle Helmet Law, Research Paper Example

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Words: 930

Research Paper

Unlike automobile drivers and passengers who continue to benefit from advancements in safety technologies, things have not changed much for motorcycle riders. Some of the lack of progress in motorcycle safety can be explained by the very nature of motorcycles. Unlike cars which surround riders from every possible angle, motorcycles are open-air transportation technology. Thus, the best solutions to motorcycle riders’ safety lie not within improvements in motorcycles themselves but in outside solutions such as safety gear and most importantly, motorcycle helmets. Motorcycle helmets should be made compulsory for motorcycle riders in every U.S. state because their benefits will far outweigh the costs.

Motorcycle helmet will help reduce the injuries and survivability rate of motorcycle riders involved in accident. A motorcyclist is 27 times more likely to die in a crash than a car rider and head injury is a leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. A rider not wearing a helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than someone wearing a helmet. A research study found that riders not wearing helmet were three times more likely to suffer brain injuries than those wearing helmets. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calculated that 9,508 lives could have been saved between 1984 and 2002 had all the riders been wearing helmets. Similarly, a study at the University of Southern California concluded through an analysis of 3,600 crash reports that helmet was the single most important factor in surviving motorcycle crashes (NHTSA, 2004).

Another benefit of the mandatory helmet laws will be that it will promote safe riding habits. One could argue that laws are not mandatory for citizens to adopt safe driving and riding habits but the data paints a disappointing picture in case of motorcycle helmets. Between 1976 and 1980, 28 states repealed or amended their motorcycle helmet laws. A data analysis on the crashes in the states of Colorado, Oklahoma, and South Dakota found that the repeal of the laws led to a 40 to 50 percent decline in helmet use (Muller, 1980). When the Highway Safety Act was amended in 1976, motorcycle fatalities increased by 61 percent while motorcycle registrations increased only 15 percent between 1976 and 1980 as compared to 1975. This demonstrates that the amendment significantly reduced the voluntary use of motorcycle helmets and led to a significant rise in fatalities. National Occupant Protection Survey from Fall 2000 to Summer 2002 discovered the same trend that as states started repealing motorcycle helmet laws, helmet use dropped from 71 percent to 58 percent nationwide. The low probability of helmet use without mandatory laws is best explained through examples of only two states. In Kentucky, observed helmet use dropped from 96 percent in 1997 to 56 percent in 2001 and in Louisiana, the observed helmet use dropped from 100 percent in 1997 to 52 percent in 2001 (NHTSA, 2004). Thus, mandatory helmet use laws will promote safe riding habits among motorcycle riders.

The third benefit of mandatory motorcycle helmet use will be decline in motorcycle thefts because some potential thieves do not have helmets. Motorcycle thefts in 19 cities in Texas declined by 44 percent between 1988 and 1990 after the state enacted motorcycle helmet laws. Similarly, motorcycle theft significantly declined in three European countries after the introduction of motorcycle helmet laws. The city of London in U.K. had a similar experience after the country enacted a motorcycle helmet law in 1973 as motorcycle thefts in London fell by 24 percent. Motorcycle thefts in Netherlands dropped by 36 percent after the enactment of motorcycle helmet laws in 1975 and the rate dropped by 60 percent in former West Germany after the introduction of on-the-spot fine in 1980 (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 2012).

The introduction of mandatory motorcycle helmet laws will also have social and economic benefits for both the individual riders and the society. An NHTSA study found that helmet use reduces cost of medical treatment, length of hospital stay, necessity for special medical treatments, and probability of long-term disability. Other studies have found that riders who do not wear helmet are less likely to have health insurance and only slightly more than half of motorcycle crash victims have private health insurance. NHTSA estimated that helmet use resulted in a saving of $7.5 billion from 1984 to 1995 (Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS)). NHTSA also estimated that helmet use saved the economy $1.3 billion in 2002 alone. The economy saved an accumulated $19.5 billion from helmet use during the period 1984-2002 and the figure would have been higher by $14.8 billion had every motorcycle rider worn helmet during the same period (NHTSA, 2004).

Motorcycle helmet laws will promote safe riding habits and will have economic and social benefits for both the individual riders as well as the greater society. The helmet use will protect the most vulnerable body parts of the riders and will significantly reduce the severity of the injuries. In addition, they will also prevent serious injuries that could result in lifelong disabilities. The economic benefits will also include lower rate of motorcycle thefts as the historical evidence in both the U.S. and Europe demonstrates.

References

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). (2012, April). Motorcycle helmet use laws. Retrieved May 12, 2012

Muller, A. (1980, June). Evaluation of the costs and benefits of motorcycle helmet laws. American Journal of Public Health, 70(6), pp. 586-592.

Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). (n.d.). Motorcycle Helmets for All Riders. Retrieved May 12, 2012, from http://trafficsafety.org/safety/sharing/motorcycle/motor-safety-everyone/motorcycle-helmets-for-all-riders

NHTSA. (2004). Traffic Safety Facta. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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