Nearly every state in America has some type of motorcycle helmet law, and California is no exception. State law in California requires all motorcyclists and their passengers to wear an approved helmet while riding a motorcycle in the state. Unlike some other states’ laws, this includes motorcyclists or passengers of any age.
There is a reason why California’s legislators require motorcycle riders to don a helmet, and it has nothing to do with keeping the cool breeze out of your hair. Motorcycle helmets save lives, and they save money.
Thanks to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is now easier to appreciate the specific benefits that helmets offer.
Helmet Use, Injuries, and Fatalities Statistics
At first glance, the statistics published by NHTSA do not seem to support the conclusion that helmets save either lives or money. Nationwide in 2017, 3,164 motorcyclists who were wearing helmets were killed in accidents, compared with 2,008 who were unhelmeted.
Similarly, there were 58,902 helmeted motorcyclists who were injured, and only 29,815 who got hurt in a motorcycle crash were not helmeted.
On the surface, these numbers seem to suggest that riding a motorcycle while unhelmeted is safer than riding with a helmet. But these numbers do not tell the whole story.
Keep in mind that all but three states require some or all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that there will be a larger number of helmeted motorcyclists on the road at any one time than unhelmeted riders.
Statistics offered by NHTSA go deeper into the benefits of helmet use. This data shows that:
- Helmets were approximately 40% effective in preventing death for riders
- Helmet use corresponded to an 8% reduction in the risk of minor injuries
- There was a 13% reduction in the risk of severe injuries with helmet use
- Motorcycle helmets saved 1,872 lives
- An estimated 749 additional lives could’ve been saved if all riders used a helmet
- Helmet use saved $3.47 billion in economic costs and an additional $21 billion in comprehensive costs
For purposes of NHTSA’s statistics, economic costs included costs associated with medical and legal expenses, court costs, property damage, and lost productivity. Comprehensive costs include these economic costs as well as the loss of quality of life among victims of motorcycle wrecks.
How California Stacks Up Against Other States
How effective is California’s law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet? In 2017, according to NHTSA, 287 lives were saved because of helmet use.
This was based on a reported 92.1% helmet use rate among those killed in motorcycle wrecks. It is estimated that another 16 people could have been saved had all motorcyclists been wearing a helmet.
Compare these numbers to Florida, which does not require riders over the age of 21 to wear a helmet. According to lender TitleMax, California and Florida had the highest and second-highest number of registered motorcycles, respectively.
In Florida, only about 50.2% of motorcyclists killed in crashes were wearing a helmet. It is estimated that helmets saved 174 riders, but another 110 could have been saved if all motorcycle riders wore a helmet.
Cost Savings of Helmet Use in California
California saved an estimated $560 million in economic costs in 2017 alone due to helmet use. Overall, the comprehensive cost savings attributable exceeded $3.5 billion. An estimated $214 million in comprehensive costs could have been saved had all riders worn a helmet.
Again, comparing California’s statistics to Florida, one can see the benefit of helmet use. Florida saved $314 million in economic costs during 2017 and $1.9 billion in comprehensive costs. However, the State of Florida could have saved $1.2 billion with more widespread helmet use.
Thus, when compared to a state that does not require all riders to wear a helmet, the data suggests that many of the outcomes a state like Florida could hope to achieve are being achieved by California.
The Bottom Line on Motorcycle Helmets
Riding a motorcycle comes with certain risks, no matter where you live. While wearing a helmet does not guarantee you will survive a serious wreck, doing so does improve your chances for a positive outcome.
The decreased risk of suffering fatal or serious injuries more than makes up for any discomfort or unpleasantness you experience from wearing a helmet.
Not only can wearing a helmet benefit your safety, but you and other taxpayers also benefit financially from helmet use. All of the money and costs saved from helmet use means that these are expenses that do not have to be borne or experienced by others.
Therefore, when it comes to wearing a motorcycle helmet, it makes sense for both your health and your wallet to put one on.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines