Motorcycle helmets save lives

Motorcycle helmets save lives

Beautiful, crisp fall days on the horizon mean long motorcycle rides on hilly country roads enticing motorcycle riders to feel the wind in their hair. Correction, for a safe ride, that should be wind on their helmet.

A report from the National Transportation and Safety Board found that helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists’ lives in 2008, and that 823 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, but there is no motorcycle helmet use law in three states, including Illinois.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), the professional society representing the medical specialists who often treat these types of injuries, shared a formal position statement strongly supporting universal helmet laws. Their statement says that “AAOS believes a significant reduction in fatalities and head injuries could be affected through the implementation of laws mandating the use of helmets by all motorcycle and bicycle drivers and passengers.”

According to a recent CDC study, in 2010, the 4,502 motorcyclists (operators and passengers) killed in motorcycle crashes made up 14 percent of all road traffic deaths, yet motorcycles accounted for less than 1 percent of all vehicle miles traveled.

Additional CDC data reports that:

  • Twelve 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.
  • Seventy-nine percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws.

According to Dr. Priyesh Patel, an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., wearing a helmet does, in fact, save lives.

“Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is not a ‘cure-all’ for motorcyclist safety, but in a crash, it can help protect your brain, your face and your life,” Dr. Patel says. “The research strongly shows that helmets make a difference so if you want to continue those motorcycle rides on the windy, country roads, I strongly suggest being safe when riding.”

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  1. I agree with the policy in Illinois for the motorcyclist to choose for him/herself. Who can say how many of these accidents might have been avoided if the rider was free of a helmet? I choose to wear one but it means I have to deal a blind spot that’s greatly increased by the helmet. My hearing is also limited by the muffling effect of the helmet padding and the wind buffeting against it. I could see and hear considerably better before I wore a helmet. That said, most near-hits I experience tend to be the fault of a 4-wheel driver beside or slightly ahead of me. Try as I may to be highly visible and to keep out of their blind-spots, too few shoulder-checks on the part of other drivers convince me that the helmet is potentially more useful than it is restrictive.

  2. I am living proof that Motorcycle helmets save lives. In 2002, I was hit by a truck that never saw me. My helmet had a silver-dollar sized ding in it that could have ruined my mother’s whole day. As it was, I had a TBI and do not ride any more. I recommend helmets every chance I get. It is a private choice in many states, but I think seat belt use is not. Is there a difference?

    Quick quiz; What do nurses and doctors call bareheaded motorcyclists?

    Answer, “Donors.” (But you knew that.)

  3. WOW, I totally agree with Joolie, it should be my choice as a rider. I’ve been riding for 20 yrs and now that I’m older. I choose to wear a helmet. Now a days there is too much distraction with drivers. I’ve seen Grandma’s texting. It’s not safe in a 4 wheel car imagine a Motorcycle. But when I’m riding around the city. I don’t usually wear a helmet and it makes a world of difference. I like having that choice. That is what America is all about. Just like I started using my car seatbelt, about three years ago. Life should be about the choices you make.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.