Police in Onondaga, New York report that a motorcyclist who was participating in a protest ride against helmet laws died after he flipped over the motorcycle’s handlebars and hit his head on the pavement. The 55-year old accident victim hit his breaks and the motorcycle fishtailed. The motorcycle spun out of control, and the man toppled over the handlebars. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police say the man would have likely survived if he had been wearing a helmet.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2007 there were more than 5,150 fatalities from U.S. motorcycle accidents in 2007, a 7% increase over 2006. There were also 103,000 injuries. In Michigan, 120 motorcyclists were killed in 2007 (the last year that statistics were available).
Some motorcyclists assert that unless you are traveling at lower speeds and fall “just right” a helmet is “really of no use”. They state that from their experience, they have seen a helmet contribute to cervical and lumbar fractures because of the way the headlands on the pavement, twisting the head and neck from the weight of the helmet.
However, seasoned riders also claim that a helmet has other benefits, aside from preventing head injuries in case of an accident. A full-faced helmet will protect your eyes and face from flying debris kicked up by drivers ahead of you. Your face is protected from the cutting sensation of wind and rain, helping you to focus more on the road and less on the discomfort of the elements. And a helmet may help with decreasing hearing loss that loud motorcycle engines can create.
Statistics also show that helmets have saved the lives of nearly 1,800 motorcyclists in 2007. In fact, motorcycle helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries. NHTSA estimates that helmets have saved 1,784 motorcyclists’ lives in 2007 and that 800 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.
In Michigan, Senators have recently passed a measure that would ease the mandatory helmet law. The provisions state that only those riders under the age of 21 may ride without a helmet, but only if the rider has completed a riders’ safety class or have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for a minimum of two years.
Furthermore, motorcyclists choosing to ride without a helmet would be required to carry at least $100,000 of insurance coverage for first-party medical benefits. In addition, the bill has a “sunset” clause that would require a study of accidents involving motorcycles in four years, to reassess the potential for an increase in deaths resulting from riders not wearing helmets. The bill now waits for approval from the State House and Governor Rick Snyder.
Whatever your stand on whether or not you feel a helmet enhances your ride, we believe that the numbers are self-evident of the positive results that helmet laws bear on the safety of riders. We believe that a mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists will contribute to the safety of riders in exactly the same way that seatbelts have contributed to the reduction of deaths from auto accidents.
So we encourage you, ride safe, wear a helmet, and live to ride another day!