motorcycle helmet lawsThe summer months are upon us and motorcycles are out in full force. That means it’s also time for an update on the helmet laws and statistics.

Every year it seems these laws change for better or worse (depending on your viewpoint), and many of the changes result from motorcycle rights organizations lobbying various state legislatures. As a result, states have been gradually repealing or weakening mandatory helmet laws for nearly two decades.

According to a recent report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention,  “As of May 2012, 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 28 states had a partial helmet law, and three states had no helmet law.”

The research on states that change their helmet law is loud and clear.

  •  When a state enacts a universal helmet law, helmet use increases substantially.
  •  When a state repeals a universal helmet law, helmet use decreases substantially.
  •  When a state repeals a universal helmet law, motorcycle deaths and injuries increase, including incapacitating head injuries.

Currently, Missouri is one of 19 states that have a universal helmet law for riders of all ages, while Illinois is one of the three states without a helmet law.

In the Missouri legislature this year, another attempt to “waive the state’s helmet law for most adults didn’t make it out of the proposal parking lot,” says a recent Associated Press report. The bill would have let motorcycle riders age 21 and older to ride without a helmet.

That being said, there were some small victories in the legislature this year for motorcycle advocacy groups. Under a measure passed this session, law enforcement wouldn’t be able to set up checkpoints targeted to pull over only motorcycles. Also, May has officially been designated as motorcycle awareness month to promote road safety.

However, and despite efforts to promote safety, there will also be more efforts by advocacy groups to soften Missouri’s motorcycle helmet laws. Therefore, we should pay attention to what is happening in Michigan.

Last year Michigan did change their law so that only riders younger than 21 must wear helmets. Since the 2012 repeal in Michigan, again according to AP this month:

·      The average insurance payment on a motorcycle injury claim increased by 34 percent.

·      The average medical claim from a motorcycle crash rose by more than 20 percent.

“This is consistent with other research that shows riding without a helmet leads to more head injuries,” said David Zuby of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Nationally, motorcycle deaths have risen in 14 of the past 15 years, and appear to have reached an all-time high of more than 5,000, according to an analysis by the Governors Highway Safety Association of preliminary 2012 data.

The simple fact is that wearing helmets saves lives.

My advice. Use your head.