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Repeal of Motorcycle Helmet Laws Leading to Increase in Motorcycle Fatalities

March 17, 2014

As a growing number of states repeal or soften their universal mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, the cost in human life, personal injury and public health care expense is rising. The impact of this shift away from universal mandatory helmet laws in many states is reflected in statistics involving motorcycle fatality rates. Because motorcyclists are completely exposed and vulnerable when they ride, motorcycle accidents have a much higher probability of resulting in catastrophic injuries like traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage and other similar injuries or wrongful death.

Unlike passenger vehicles, motorcycles offer no structural protection for the body or other safety equipment like airbags and seatbelts. These inherent differences between motorcycles and passenger vehicles combined with a high rate of serious head injuries often suffered by motorcyclists led states to implement universal helmet laws. A number of states have begun to repeal these laws based on personal liberty and freedom of choice considerations, but the human and economic costs of the decision to repeal and soften these laws are already becoming apparent.

The evidence supporting the proposition that passenger vehicles are far more dangerous than motorcycles is overwhelming. Federal government crash data suggests that a motorcyclist is 37 times more likely to die in a fatal collision per mile driven than someone who is in a passenger vehicle. Nonetheless, fewer than half of all U.S. states currently have universal mandatory helmet laws for those who ride motorcycles. Head injuries are the leading cause of death for those involved in motorcycle crashes in Georgia.

At one point, the federal government offered incentives to states to encourage universal helmet laws, which resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of fatal motorcycle crashes. However, many states have now started to repeal these laws or to weaken them significantly by having them only apply to young riders who are under a certain age with predictable results. In a state bordering Georgia, for example, the state weakened its mandatory helmet law in so that it did not apply to riders over 21 who carried at least $10,000 in medical coverage. A study conducted after the change by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicated that young riders were 97 percent more likely to die in a motorcycle crash after the law changed. This change in the law corresponded with a substantial reduction in the number of young riders that used motorcycle helmets, which declined from 72 percent to 55 percent.

The study conducted by the IIHS also revealed mandatory helmet laws that apply only to younger riders are difficult to enforce. Less than half of riders under 21 who were required to wear helmets that were involved in fatal motorcycle accidents were found to have done so. The effectiveness of universal mandatory helmet laws also is reflected by the fact that fatality rates for those involved in motorcycle accidents is between 20 to 40% lower in those states that have universal helmet laws.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 39 Years of Experience to Work On Your Case

There is substantial evidence that universal mandatory motorcycle helmet laws save lives. Our Atlanta Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Montlick and Associates encourage all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Montlick and Associates has been representing injured motorcycle crash victims for over thirty years throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Montlick Law

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.