The 6 Most Common Myths about Motorcycle Helmet Use and Universal Helmet Laws


January 14, 2014

Many motorcyclists object to mandatory helmet laws, but the enormous toll in personal injuries, loss of life and medical costs related to motorcycle accident head injuries has prompted mandatory helmet laws in virtually all states. Although these laws constitute some infringement on personal liberty, motorcycle safety advocates argue that the financial savings in public health care expenses justify this intrusion. While the philosophical and political debate is beyond the scope of this blog, our Atlanta motorcycle accident attorneys see the tragic toll of not wearing a helmet far too often. As such, we also encourage people to review the following most common myths about motorcycle helmets and helmet use based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

Myth No. 1: Motorcycle helmets can increase the risk of crashes because they obstruct a rider's vision?

Some riders object to the use of motorcycle helmets because of concerns that a rider's peripheral vision may be obstructed, but this assumption is not supported by scientific evidence or prior studies. Normal peripheral vision is in the range of 200 to 220 degrees. Federal safety standards mandate that all motorcycle helmets allow at least a minimum of 210 degrees of peripheral vision. The vast majority of motorcycle accidents involve hazards within 160 degrees of the rider's peripheral vision. Virtually all motorcycle accidents that occur outside this range involve rear-end impacts.

Myth No. 2: If a motorcyclist is wearing a helmet, the rider cannot hear approaching vehicles, horns and other sounds that might alert the rider of a potential motorcycle accident hazard.

Although motorcycle helmets do have an impact on hearing, evidence suggests that they do not impair hearing in a way that contributes to collisions between a motorcycle and car. A study conducted by the University of California analyzed 900 investigations conducted at the site of motorcycle accidents, the researchers did not discover a single crash where the inability of the rider to hear a traffic sound contributed to the motorcycle collision. Further, some studies suggest that helmets may actually improve the ability of riders to detect traffic noises that alert the motorcyclist of potential hazards. While helmets decrease the volume of noise, studies show that they do not impair a rider's ability to differentiate between different sounds. Some studies have found that a rider may be aided in identifying relevant sounds because the helmet reduces the noise of wind resistance and the motorcycle's engine allowing the rider to hear sounds from other vehicles.

Myth No. 3: Motorcycle helmets do not have a significant impact on the types of injuries suffered in most motorcycle crashes.

A report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that wearing a motorcycle helmet reduced the risk of suffering a brain injury by nearly seventy percent and decreased the risk of fatality by 42 percent. Because trauma to the head resulting in brain damage or death is the most common form of serious injury suffered in motorcycle accidents, helmets can make an enormous difference in the outcome of a crash.

Myth No. 4: Virtually all motorcyclists will wear helmets without a law making use of a helmet mandatory.

According to the NHTSA, surveys reveal that in states with universal helmet laws 98 percent of riders wear helmets whereas in states without such helmet laws only 34 to 54 percent of riders wear helmets. In other words, mandatory helmet laws more than double the rate of helmet use by motorcyclists.

Myth No. 5: Motorcycle helmets increase the risk of suffering a serious neck or spinal injury because of the force generated by the additional weight on the neck.

While a study conducted by J.P. Goldstein more than 25 years ago suggested that the additional weight of a motorcycle helmet could contribute to spinal cord injuries and neck injuries, the methodology of this study has been widely criticized and the results disputed. In excess of a dozen peer reviewed medical studies have reached a contrary conclusion. A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that analyzed 1,153 motorcycle accidents found that helmets did not increase the probability of suffering a neck injury or spinal injury. There is even research suggesting that motorcycle helmets reduce the frequency of such injuries. Helmets today also are substantially lighter than when the Goldstein study was conducted.

Myth No. 6: Motorcycle helmet laws that only require those below a certain age to use helmets are just as effective as universal helmet laws.

According to the NHTSA, crash statistics that compare states with age-specific helmet laws to states with universal helmet laws indicate that these less comprehensive laws result in no greater helmet use than in states with no helmet requirement at all. Further, law enforcement efforts are complicated by age-specific laws because it is difficult for police officers to determine a rider's age when a bike is traveling down the highway.

Contact the Atlanta Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Montlick and Associates Today!

If your loved one has been the victim of a negligent driver when riding a motorcycle, our Atlanta motorcycle accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates have been representing injury victims for over thirty years throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to 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 www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.