The very simple answer to the question, “Do motorcycle helmets save lives?” is “yes”. The single most effective way to save lives in a motorcycle accident is to wear a helmet. This becomes a very important answer as the number of motorcycle deaths continues to increase.
Motorcycle fatalities and injuries statistics
In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 8.3% from 2014. In the same year, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured. Motorcycle deaths accounted for 13% of all motor vehicle accidents in 2015 and were more than double the number of such fatalities in 1997.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries. Yet only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all users. An additional 28 states require only younger riders to wear a helmet.
On the basis of miles driven, the fatality rate for bikers was 26 times higher than that of passenger vehicle occupants in 2013. Most killed were male – more than 90% in 2014. The 20-29 age group had the highest share of deaths (50%), followed by the 50-59 age group.
Also on the basis of miles driven, motorcyclists were more than 26 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than occupants of traditional vehicles.
What are the motorcycle helmet laws in Arkansas?
Arkansas once had a mandatory motorcycle helmet law, but it was repealed in 1997. Now, Arkansas law requires only motorcycle operators and passengers under 21 to wear a helmet. The helmet requirement does not apply to three-wheel motorcycles equipped with a cab and a windshield which do not exceed twenty horsepower (20 hp) when such motorcycles are used by municipal police departments.
Why don’t some motorcyclists want to wear helmets?
As I drive, I see some motorcyclists wearing helmets and some that don’t. I don’t know the statistics of helmet use in Arkansas, but it seems like there are more of those who don’t wear helmets than those who do. Below are a few reasons why motorcyclists said they don’t want to wear helmets.
- Helmets lessen the ability to hear traffic and dangers to the rider.
- Helmets lessen peripheral vision.
- Helmets do not prevent neck injuries and may in fact increase them due to the additional weight.
- “I know the dangers and I’m OK with the trade-offs.”
- The primary reason is individual liberty. Mandating helmet use is seen as government interference.
- “Who am I hurting, other than myself, if I crash without a helmet on?”
- Many find helmets uncomfortable.
Why I believe you should wear a motorcycle helmet
I believe you should wear a motorcycle helmet for the following reasons:
- It reduces the risk of traumatic brain injury.
- It makes you easier to see.
- It protects you from road debris.
- It protects you from the elements.
How to identify unsafe motorcycle helmets
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has a brochure that specifies how to identify an unsafe motorcycle helmet. If you use a helmet, please take a moment to look it over.
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