Position Statement on HELMET USAGE BY MOTORCYCLE AND MOTORIZED BICYCLE OPERATORS AND PASSENGERS

Iowa Counties Public Health Association

HELMET USAGE BY MOTORCYCLE AND MOTORIZED BICYCLE OPERATORS AND PASSENGERS

Position Statement

Background:

Preventing serious injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes is a major and growing public health concern.

Consider that:

  • Motorcycle crashes killed 4,502 people in 2010.
  • Motorcycle-related deaths have increased by 55% since 2000.
  • Motorcycle crash-related injuries and deaths totaled $12 billion in one year, in medical care costs and productivity losses.

The good news is that riders—and their passengers—can protect themselves by wearing helmets. Helmets are estimated to prevent 37 percent of crash deaths among motorcycle riders and 41 percent of crash deaths for motorcycle passengers.

Annual cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws were nearly four times greater (per registered motorcycle) than in states without these comprehensive laws, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Universal helmet laws require that motorcycle riders and passengers wear a helmet every time they ride.

Annual costs saved from helmet use, in terms of medical, productivity, and other costs, ranged from a high of $394 million in California (which has a universal helmet law) to a low of $2.6 million in New Mexico (which has a partial law). Partial helmet laws require that only certain riders, such as those under age 21, to wear a helmet.

Universal helmet laws result in cost savings by increasing helmet use among riders and passengers, which reduces crash-related injuries and deaths. According to a CDC analysis of fatal crash data from 2008 to 2010, 12 percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not wearing helmets.  In comparison, 64 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with partial helmet laws, and 79 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws.

Helmets prevent 37 percent of crash deaths among riders and 41 percent among passengers. They also prevent 13 percent of serious injuries and 8 percent of minor injuries to riders and passengers. In 2010, more than $3 billion in economic costs were saved due to helmet use in the United States. Another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.

Universal helmet laws are the most effective strategy for increasing helmet use and protecting motorcycle riders and their passengers. As of May 2012, 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 28 states had partial helmet laws, and three states had no helmet law.

 

Policy Recommendations:

For the protection of all individuals, ICPHA recommends a universal helmet law, requiring the use of helmets for all motorcycle and motorized bicycle operators and passengers.  While a partial law will benefit some citizens, the reduction in injury, death and disability and cost savings suggests a stronger case for the universal law.


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