Motorcycle Deaths Rising Due to Looser Helmet Laws

According to a Gannet News Service analysis of federal accident reports, deaths from motorcycle accidents have increased since states started loosening helmet laws in the mid to late nineties. Once the federal government chose to stop withholding highway money from states without helmet laws, some states began weakening or repealing their helmet laws.

Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics show that 5.6 motorcyclists were killed for every 10,000 registered motorcycles in 1996. Ten years later, that number had risen to 7.3. That may seem like a small spike, but the annual death toll from motorcycle crashes rose from 2,160 to 4,810 during that same period. Fatality rates for all other passenger vehicles have been decreasing.

The government’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System of motorcycle deaths between 2002 and 2006 also revealed that nearly half of those riders killed were not wearing helmets. The average age of those killed was around 38, and nearly half of motorcyclists who died in 2006 were 40 and older. Nearly a quarter were 50 or older.

Only about 20 states require riders to wear helmets, and the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states reinstate helmet laws to reduce the risk of severe head trauma or death from motorcycle crashes.

Southern States Among Those With Highest Motorcycle Death Rates, USA Today, March 3, 2009
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