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Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Debunk Claims That Helmets Pose Safety Risk

January 04, 2016

Although many people object to mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, these objections usually are based on principles of personal autonomy and free choice rather than safety concerns. While a broad range of studies establish the safety benefits associated with wearing a helmet, some pundits contend helmets can cause motorcycle accidents or increase the severity of injury experienced in a motorcycle accident. Because we have heard this claim on many occasions, we decided to examine whether evidence supports a view that motorcycles can make riders less safe.

Individuals that contend motorcycles put riders at a greater risk of being involved in a crash argue that helmets can limit visibility and hearing. This myth has persisted despite a study conducted at the direction of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nearly twenty years ago that debunked this theory. The study sought to answer two specific motorcycle helmet safety questions: (1) Whether helmets impair a rider's ability to visually detect the presence of vehicles when making a lane change; and (2) Do helmets limit a rider's ability to detect traffic noises when traveling at freeway speeds?

The researchers analyzed the impact of helmet use on fifty motorcyclists spanning various ages. Riders on a 5.5 mile stretch of divided highway with four lanes were asked to make lane changes whenever they heard a turn signal from a trailing vehicle. Riders were instructed to turn their head to check the adjacent lane when hearing the sound and to execute a lane change as they would normally. Each study participant traveled the route three times: (1) with a full helmet, (2) with a partial helmet; and (3) with no helmet. The researchers analyzed the degree of head rotation by the riders when checking for traffic in the adjacent lane to test the impact of a helmet on vision. The level of the sound used to signal riders to execute a lane change was varied to test whether helmets impaired hearing.

The study results indicate that motorcycle helmets had no significant impact on vision or hearing. With respect to vision, the researcher found that riders compensate for the minimal impact on vision by turning their head slightly further. Almost 83 percent of the riders automatically adjusted to a minor reduction in vision by turning their head a little more. Importantly, riders did not take any longer to check whether it was clear to execute a lane change regardless of helmet use. Although helmet use had a minor impact on rider behavior, the adjustment did not appear to impact safety, especially in light of the safety benefits offered by helmets. Helmet use had no impact on a rider's ability to hear traffic noises.

Multiple studies have also debunked the notion that motorcycle helmets increase the risk of serious injury because of the threat of cervical spine and neck trauma. For example, a study published in Injury Prevention journal found that helmets provide significant protection against head and facial injuries, but the increased head mass does not increase the risk of neck or cervical spine injury. Research published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine goes further, indicating that helmets actually reduce the probability that a motorcycle crash victim will suffer a spinal injury.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 38 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Claim

Because wearing a motorcycle helmet can protect riders from serious head injuries, our Motorcycle Accident Lawyers encourage people to take precautions to prevent head injuries. If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, our experienced Atlanta Motorcycle Collision Attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of our clients and pursuing a favorable outcome. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries in Atlanta and the Southeast for over thirty years, 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: 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.