Statement on National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

    • May 16, 2019
    150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 16, 2019

    Contact: Pete Daniels 202-408-1711   (c) 301-442-2249  pdaniels@saferoads.org

    Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, On Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

     Missouri Must Retain Its Lifesaving All-Rider Helmet Law

    This Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month (May 2019) is an important time to focus on the fact that motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to die in a crash than people riding in passenger cars.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycles are “the most hazardous form of transportation.”  Flying in the face of this reality, right now the Missouri General Assembly is considering legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 147, that would repeal their all-rider helmet requirement which has been saving lives, mitigating injuries and saving taxpayers money for over 51 years.  We urge all Missourians to contact their Senators today and ask them to oppose SB 147.

    Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent and lower the risk of death by 42 percent.  In 2017, the average number of fatalities involving motorcyclists not wearing helmets was ten times as high in states that do not have an all-rider helmet law compared to states that do (1,777 vs. 170).  According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proved to be effective in reducing motorcyclist fatalities.”

    In addition to Missouri, at least seven other states (MD, MA, NE, NC, VA, WA and WV) also considered bills to weaken or repeal vital all-rider helmet laws this legislative session.  These repeal measures are irresponsible and deadly.  After Michigan weakened its all-rider helmet law in 2012, the percentage of non-helmeted crash scene fatalities quadrupled.[i]   Further, after the repeal, trauma patients who were hospitalized with a head injury rose 14%.[ii]

    More than 5,000 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2017, and in 2015, 88,000 were injured across the nation (NHTSA).  Not only do motorcycle crashes exact a heavy toll in lives lost and injuries suffered, but they also come with a hefty cost borne by all citizens.  The charges associated with motorcycle crashes, such as lengthy hospital stays, add up to $12.9 billion in economic impacts and $66 billion in societal harm each year (NHTSA).  Helmet use, on the other hand, has been shown to prevent $2.7 billion in economic costs and $17 billion in societal harm, annually.  In states with an all-rider helmet law, the use of a helmet resulted in economic costs saved to society of $725 per registered motorcycle, compared with $198 per registered motorcycle in states without such a law.

    With the number of motorcycle crash fatalities more than doubling since a low of 2,116 in 1997, commonsense and effective laws that prevent death and injury should be advanced, and not rolled back.  Advocates applauds the four states (CT, HI, IA and TX) that introduced primary enforcement all-rider helmet legislation this session and urges all 28 states (AK, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, ID, IN, KS, KY, ME, MI, MN, MT, ND, NM, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TX, UT, WI and WY) lacking this law to prioritize legislation to close this dangerous gap next session.  More information on the issue is available here.

    The best way to celebrate Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is for all motorcyclists to wear a helmet and for everyone to call for passage of all-rider helmet laws.  Let your state elected officials know you support proven, lifesaving all-rider helmet laws, especially if you live in Missouri.  Those who support helmet repeals argue, “Let those who ride decide.”  We respond by asserting that this decision impacts everyone, and “Let those who pay have a say.”  All-rider motorcycle helmet laws save lives, reduce injuries and protect the wallets of all taxpayers.

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    [i]     Repeal of the Michigan helmet law: the evolving clinical impact, Striker, Rebecca H. et al., The American Journal of Surgery, Volume 211, Issue 3, 529 – 533
    [ii]     Carter PM, Buckley L, Flannagan CA, et al. The Impact of Michigan’s Partial Repeal of the Universal Motorcycle Helmet Law on Helmet Use, Fatalities, and Head Injuries. Am J Public Health. 2016;107(1):166-172..