There are more than 4000 motorcyclist deaths each year. Per mile traveled, there are 27 times more motorcycle deaths that automobile fatalities. This is primarily due to the lack of protection available to motorcyclists, including failure to use a helmet. About 50% of motorcycle deaths are due to head injury.
Helmet use by motorcyclists varies widely across the US. Only 20 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory helmet laws for all motorcyclists. 27 states require helmets on some riders, usually those less than 17 or 18 years old. Three states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire) do not have any helmet law.
Do helmets work? Do helmet laws work? Many studies have been done, and now the evidence is convincing that the answer to both questions is yes! The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma has just released an evidence based review on motorcycle helmet use. They looked at 45 of the best scientific studies available to reach their conclusions. Following is a summary of their findings:
- The use of motorcycle helmets decreases the overall death rate of motorcycle crashes as compared to non-helmeted riders
- The use of motorcycle helmets decreases lethal head injuries as compared to non-helmeted riders
- The use of motorcycle helmets decreases the severity of non-lethal head injuries as compared to non-helmeted riders
- Mandatory universal helmet laws reduce mortality and head injury in geographical areas with the law as compared to those without it
Based on this data, the EAST document makes the following recommendations:
- Level I (supported by highest quality research): All motorcyclists should wear helmets to reduce the incidence of head injury after a crash
- Level II (supported by high quality research): All motorcyclists should wear helmets to improve overall survival and reduce head-injury related mortality after a crash
- Level II: Mandatory universal motorcycle helmet laws should be introduced or re-enacted to reduce morality and head injury after a crash
The full text of the EAST review can be downloaded by clicking the link below.