Wear a Helmet the Life You Save May be Your Own
A disturbing trend in the reduction of states with universal motorcycle helmet laws may be leading to more fatalities on our nations roadways.
In a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) overall motor vehicle deaths dropped to their lowest level since 1949. However there was little progress in reducing deaths for motorcyclist the report said. Motorcycle deaths remained at 4,500 in 2011 about the same as in 2010. The report classified motorcycles as any two or three wheeled vehicle in the study.
The group said that raising prices at the pump may be leading to more people deciding to use motorcycles as a more economical means of transportation. They also used the data to raise the issue of the use of mandatory helmet laws, which are under attack in at least five states.
There is a decrease in states with universal helmet laws. Only 19 states currently require all riders to wear helmets, down from 26 in 1997. Earlier this year, Michigan repealed its universal helmet law, while similar legislation has been introduced in five other states. No state has enacted a universal helmet law since Louisiana reinstated its requirement in 2004.
To continue reducing injuries and deaths the report urges states to focus their efforts on motorcycle safety:
- Increase Helmet Use: Helmets are proven to be 37 percent effective at preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators and passengers. Helmet laws are the only motorcycle safety strategy to receive a five-star effectiveness rating in NHTSA’s “Countermeasures that Work” guidebook for states. Alarmingly, helmet use declined dramatically in 2010 and 30 states still lack helmet laws for all riders.
- Reduce Alcohol Impairment: States should conduct high visible drunk driving enforcement that includes motorcyclists as well as implement training efforts to help police identify drunken motorcyclists.
- Reduce Speeding: According to the most recent data, 35 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding. More than half of speed-related fatal motorcycle crashes did not involve another vehicle.
- Provide Motorcycle Operator Training to All Who Need or Seek It: While all states currently conduct training courses, some areas may not provide enough course openings at the locations and times convenient for riders.
Motorcycle deaths increased in 26 states and the District of Columbia for the first nine months of last year. Deaths rose in South Carolina by 26% and 16% in Texas. They declined in 23 states, dropping 37% in Connecticut while remaining unchanged in Louisiana. In New York they fell 16% and in North Carolina they fell 21%. Barbara J. Fiala, Commissioner of New York’s DMV attributes the decline to educating drivers to be aware of motorcyclist. She said we are educating motorist to be aware of motorcyclist, and for riders to wear bright protective gear to make themselves more visible.
States with the fewest deaths may be attributed to a shorter riding season, reduced motorcycle travel and stepped up educational programs and law enforcement.
States with rising deaths rates cited good weather for riding with more motorcycles used for traveling and lower helmet use. They also pointed out that 2009 had an abnormally low fatality level (a decrease of 16%) and that the levels have come up to a more normal level. While the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) does not agree with the report’s recommendation for mandatory helmet laws, it does “strongly encourage helmet use.” The AMA reasons that helmet laws do little to prevent motorcycle crashes. The enforcement of those laws takes scarce resource dollars away from effective crash-prevention programs and motorist awareness.
Currently, about half the states require helmets for all motorcyclists. Most other states require helmets for certain riders, and a few have no helmet laws. Motorcycle helmet use has dropped significantly in 2010. Proactive measures to educate riders about helmet use will be needed. The GHSA urges all states to adopt a universal motorcycle helmet law and vigorously enforce existing laws.
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