Facts and statistics

The Truth about Motorcycle Helmet Laws

1. Helmet Laws themselves do not save lives

  • An analysis of 16 years of NHTSA data from all 50 states clearly shows that the average accident rate and the fatality rate is actually lower in states without helmet laws. Click on Fatality Rates at left to view the true facts. Statistics also prove that a state-funded Rider’s Ed program prevents more accidents and saves more lives than a mandatory helmet law. Additional proof: the average fatality rate of the 5 states which most recently modified their helmet laws to allow adult choice did not increase.  Also, no state has ever raised their insurance rates due to helmet law repeal.
  • A helmet law does nothing to prevent the root cause of injuries, which is the accident itself. Even NHTSA states: “Helmets cannot protect the rider from most types of bodily injuries”

    2. Non-helmeted riders are not a burden on society

  • The conclusion that a repeal "would put a huge burden on an already-taxed health care system, and the people who support it" is also unfounded, as statistics show that motorcyclists are 3.6% less dependent upon public funds for hospitalization than is the general public.  Also, since statistics show the average accident rate and the fatality rate is lower in states without helmet laws, not being forced to wear a helmet is not a social burden.
  • Moreover, a study by the Highway Safety Research Center and School of Medicine, University of North Carolina concluded “There were no significant differences in overall mortality, mean trauma scores, mean hospital stays, mean hospital charges, or % of cases discharged to a rehab facility in helmeted and unhelmeted patients, either before or after stratification”.

    3. Helmet Laws are costing Michigan money and impacting the environment

  • Helmet laws discourage motorcycle usage, thus increasing statewide fuel consumption (motorcycles get 50 - 60 mpg), which is additional burden upon the environment.
  • Amending the helmet law to allow adult choice could have a positive economic impact of up to

    $68 million dollars (using the figures from Florida, which recently amended its helmet law, and adjusting to Michigan’s population). This reflects motorcycle sales, sales tax, registration and title fees.

    In addition, we are losing millions of dollars in tourism revenues because a large number of motorcyclists take their vacations in neighboring states, as none of our neighbors have an adult helmet law.

    Supporting data and sources

A. 16-year NHTSA study of 50 states

  • Graph: Accidents in % of registrations
  • Graph: Fatalities in % of registrations
  • Graph: California stats

B. Highway Safety Research Center and School of Medicine, University of North Carolina Study:

  • “The Association of Helmet Use with the Outcome of Motorcycle Crash Injury when controlling for Crash/Injury Severity”; this was a 4-year study using 26590 patients as a basis.
  • The average cost per patient was $14,700 for motorcyclists and $15,700 for other modes of transportation.

    The average hospital stay (# of days) was equal for helmeted vs non-helmeted patients; the difference charges was deemed insignificant by the authors of the study ($16,000 for helmeted vs $17,000 for non-helmeted) as it was below the statistical Standard Deviation.

    Direct quotes from the study:

    “Injured motorcycle operators admitted to trauma centers had lower injury severity scores compared to other trauma victims (motor vehicle operators and pedestrians), accruing lower hospital charges”.

    “Motorcyclists were just as likely to be medically insured as others..

C. Fatality statistics from other states which have recently amended their helmet laws.

    Vince Piacenti   10/29/2003