Congress’s 1966 highway funding law made some highway funds contingent on states passing motorcycle helmet laws. As a result, 47 states and the District of Columbia passed laws requiring all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear helmets.
Although this experiment was successful, Congress repealed the helmet mandate in 1975 and many states began to repeal their helmet laws.
The data collected before, during, and after the period of mandatory helmet use provides great insight into the facts and myths surrounding motorcycle helmet use.
Here is a list of some motorcycle helmet myths and facts from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Motorcycle Helmet Myths and Safety
Several motorcycle helmet myths denigrate their effectiveness including:
Myth: Helmets Interfere with Vision and Hearing
Helmets do not interfere with vision. One of the criteria used by the U.S. Department of Transportation to approve helmets is that they do not impede your vision.
Most people have a field of vision of about 220 degrees. Under federal regulations, motorcycle helmets must permit 210 degrees of peripheral vision. And data shows that most accidents happen within 160 degrees of your field of vision.
In other words, most accidents happen in front of you or within 80 degrees to your right and left. This visual range falls well within the range permitted by helmets.
Helmets do not interfere with your hearing either. Studies show that motorcyclists can still distinguish between sounds and identify the direction sounds come from. Helmets might even improve your hearing while riding a motorcycle by cutting down on wind noise so you can hear other vehicles.
Myth: Helmets Cause More Injuries than They Prevent
Your chances of sustaining a head or spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident are much higher without a helmet than with a helmet. Helmets reduce the risk of a head injury by 69%. They reduce your risk of neck injury by 50%. Overall, motorcycle helmets reduce your risk of a fatal motorcycle accident by 37%.
Myth: Only Kids Need Motorcycle Helmets
Several states repealed their universal motorcycle helmet laws and replaced them with targeted motorcycle helmet laws. These targeted laws usually required riders and passengers under a certain age to wear helmets. They exempted adults over those ages from wearing helmets.
But states did not exempt adults from the helmet laws because they can ride safely without them. They did it because they weighed individual responsibility against individual safety and came down on the side of individual responsibility.
States that weakened their helmet laws acknowledge that a motorcyclist’s risk of a serious injury goes up if they do not wear a helmet.
Florida, for example, exempts riders over 21 from wearing a helmet only if they have at least $10,000 in health insurance in the event of a motorcycle crash.
Legality of Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Many myths have also sprung up around the legality or constitutionality of motorcycle helmet laws. Some motorcycle helmet myths include:
Myth: Motorcycle Helmet Laws Are Unconstitutional
The U.S. Supreme Court and the highest courts in 25 states have examined the constitutionality of motorcycle helmet laws. The laws have withstood challenges in all 26 courts.
The state has expansive power to regulate health and safety. This includes requiring restaurant employees to get food handler’s permits, public school students to get vaccines, and motorcyclists to wear helmets.
The state also has the authority to protect itself from unnecessary healthcare expenses. This rationale provided the basis for the state lawsuits against the tobacco industry. The state’s expenses for motorcycle injuries are much higher if those motorcyclists do not wear helmets.
If you do not like your state’s motorcycle helmet law, your remedy is to vote for someone to repeal it. Challenging the constitutionality of motorcycle helmet laws will likely fail.
Myth: Motorcycle Helmet Laws Are Overreaching
Legislatures target helmet laws to the specific problem of motorcycle deaths and injuries. These laws are narrowly tailored to remedy these problems.
Legislatures know this because they have data that proves the effectiveness of helmets and helmet laws. In a study of Texas and Arkansas before and after their helmet law repeal in 1997, researchers found that repeal caused:
- Helmet usage to drop
- Fatalities and serious injuries to spike
- Healthcare costs related to motorcycle crashes to increase
These facts show that helmet laws are effective at fixing a specific problem and they do it very effectively.
Myth: Motorcycle Helmet Laws Do Not Save Many Lives
Motorcycle accidents claim too many lives. A motorcyclist’s risk of getting into a fatal accident is sixteen times higher than that of automobile occupants. The risk of a serious injury is four times higher for motorcyclists.
If motorcycle helmets can reduce the risk by just a little, then helmet laws serve their purpose.
Motorcycle Helmet Usage
Your helmet usage does not need to depend on your local laws. Researchers have proven that motorcycle helmets reduce head injuries, neck injuries, and deaths. Wearing a helmet will help you avoid the worst outcomes of a motorcycle accident.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people. Now, when those injured in automobile 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.
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