Repeal of Helmet Laws Blamed for Increasing Numbers of Motorcycle Fatalities

According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration approximately 5,000 Americans were killed in motorcycle crashes in 2012. That’s a nine percent increase from the previous year and a threefold increase from 1997. Fatalities involving other types of vehicles have fallen by about 25 percent during the same 15 year period.

Motorcycle fatalities have increased in 14 of the past 15 years, and GHSA deputy executive director Jonathan Adkins blames the expanding repeal of state helmet laws for what he says is “a bad situation that is getting worse.”

Adkins says it is not coincidental that motorcycle fatalities in Michigan increased by 18 percent last year after state lawmakers repealed the law requiring riders to wear helmets. In 2011, there were only five motorcycle fatalities in Michigan. In 2012 that number rose to 55. A University of Michigan study claimed that nearly half of the riders killed in 2012 would likely have survived if they had been wearing helmets.

NHTSA Director David Strickland says that there have been increases in the number of motorcycle fatalities in every state that has repealed their helmet laws. The agency estimates that 822 of the motorcyclists killed in 2008 would likely have survived had they been wearing helmets and credits the use of helmets for the survival of an additional 1,829 riders who were involved in motorcycle accidents that year.

The NHTSA says cyclists are 37 times more likely to be killed in a crash than automobile passengers.

A.B.A.T.E., a nationwide non-profit organization whose mission is to “preserve the universal right to a safe, unrestricted motorcycling environment,” claims that the increase in motorcycle fatalities in 2012 was due to the warmer-than-usual weather which resulted in motorcyclists being on the roads longer last year.

Alcohol use is another contributing factor to the high number of annual motorcycle fatalities. In 2012, approximately 42 percent of all riders killed in motorcycle accidents were found to have dangerously high blood alcohol levels of over 0.08 percent.

In 1997, 26 states required motorcyclists to wear safety helmets. Since then, the number has dropped to just 19.

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