NTSB Urging Mandatory Motorcycle Helmet Laws

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is advocating universal motorcycle helmet laws for all riders in all states. Of the 47 states that currently have motorcycle helmet laws, 27 require helmets only for certain riders — usually those under 18. Washington, D.C. and 20 states require helmets for all motorcycle riders.

Previously, Florida legislation required all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Since 2000 however, the state allows riders 21 the option to ride without a helmet provided that they carry at least $10,000 medical insurance coverage.

According to USA Today, every day in the United States more than 12 motorcyclists die in crashes and the leading cause of these fatalities is head injuries. Although motorcycles comprise only three percent of the vehicles on the roads, they are involved in 13 percent of the country’s fatalities, says NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart. He says that helmets that meet the United States Department of Transportation regulations are 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle fatalities.

In Florida, the trend is not encouraging. When comparing the period from 1997 to 1999 with the period from 2001 to 2003, motorcycle fatalities increased by 48 percent nationally; in Florida, these fatalities increased 81 percent.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that helmet use decreased following the change to the law in 2000. Crash reports suggest that helmet use declined significantly among riders under the age of 21, who are still covered by the law; fatalities in this age group nearly tripled in the three years following the change in the law.However, many motorcycle enthusiasts oppose a helmet requirement.

Last year marked the first time in 11 years that the number of motorcycle fatalities dropped. While some experts attribute the decrease to the economy, Jeff Hennie, vice president of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, finds it alarming and disturbing that the NTSB would pursue motorcycle helmet laws after such a drop. Hennie favors rider education and motorist awareness over motorcycle helmet laws.

While spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association Jonathan Adkins says the trend in recent years has been for states to repeal mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, he also says, “there is no argument that motorcycle helmet laws will reduce fatalities.”

Anyone injured in a motorcycle accident should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss the accident, address any uninsured or underinsured motorist issues, and determine whether they may have a right to compensation for medical bills and other damages

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