Motorcycle Helmet Law Controversy

Apr 28, 2021

There are a couple important factors to keep in mind when discussing what any community, including motorcyclists, think of any topic.

The motorcycle community isn’t some monolithic, single-minded being. There is a lot of diversity in the motorcycle community, with many different types of people with different opinions and different life priorities.

One of the few consistent characteristics among the vast majority of motorcyclists is they like to ride. For some motorcyclists, the act of riding is a physical manifestation of freedom – and they really like their freedom. Some of those riders take offense to any imposition on their freedom or their personal choices.

Many riders who wear a helmet may not believe that helmet laws are right or necessary. They wear a helmet because they’re concerned with safety but don’t think the state or federal government should force them to do anything.

Other riders don’t see safety regulations as an unfair imposition on people. They believe any rule or regulation that saves lives and prevents injuries, especially one that they don’t view to be a huge imposition, is entirely appropriate.

That’s really the foundation of the internal debate within the motorcycle community. Most riders hold their freedoms sacred, and some of them believe helmet laws inappropriately curtail their freedoms. Some anti-helmet lobbyists and activists also argue that helmets cause more injuries than they prevent, but there’s little evidence to support their position.

What Do the Facts Say?

This is another important part of the debate. Most stats clearly show wearing motorcycle helmets prevent injuries.

According to the CDC, helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent and the risk for head injuries by 69 percent. The NHTSA estimated helmets saved the lives of 1,872 riders in 2017, and could have saved the lives of 749 more had every rider involved in an accident been wearing a helmet.

However, riders who are against helmet laws sometimes point out that those facts and studies are put together by government organizations and are funded by groups that have a vested interest in increasingly restrictive motorcycle safety laws. Some anti-helmet activists believe some of the methodologies or data sets being used are suspect or being intentionally distorted/misinterpreted to support a specific narrative on helmet safety.

Do Helmets Cause More Cervical Spine and Neck Injuries Than They Prevent?

This is another argument that’s frequently brought up by riders who question the authenticity of government and pro-helmet advocate data on helmet use.

Their main evidence comes from an old 1981 report on motorcycle accidents in California, frequently called the “Hurt” study. Anti-helmet lobbyists don’t cite the report itself, but rather analysis of the report performed by Dr. Jonathan P. Goldstein in 1986. Goldstein suggests that the Hurt data showed that helmet use resulted in a statistically significant increase in the severity of neck injuries past a critical impact velocity to the helmet.

There have been studies and analysis in more recent years that suggest Dr. Goldstein was wrong, but it hasn’t stopped anti-helmet interests from using his initial conclusions as evidence.

A more recent 2018 study found that 7.4 percent of riders wearing helmets suffered cervical spine injuries in motorcycle crashes compared to 15.4 of riders who weren’t wearing helmets. Cervical spine fractures were also more prevalent in helmetless riders (10.8 percent) than helmeted riders (4.6 percent).

Some riders also try to argue that the risk of death or serious injury is high for riders regardless of whether they wear a helmet, so why bother?

Does Not Wearing a Helmet in an Accident Jeopardize My Chances at Recovery?

It might. If you’re injured in a state where helmets are legally required – like Georgia – the person who caused your accident can, at a minimum, claim your negligence contributed to the severity of your injuries.

If they can prove your injuries would have been minor or non-existent had you been wearing a helmet, it’s possible you could have trouble winning any compensation.

Even in states where helmets aren’t legally required, the insurance company’s lawyers may still attempt to use a rider’s failure to wear one as evidence of the rider’s recklessness.

The insurance company will always look for ways to make the rider look like the one who was being negligent. A rider who refuses to wear a helmet, regardless of whether or not it’s legally required, may appear to be negligent to a jury.

Our Atlanta Motorcycle Lawyers Help Injured Riders Regardless of Their Helmet Position

At the Dressie Law Firm, we represent a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs. Regardless of how you feel about helmets, we’ll still be committed to fighting for the compensation you deserve.

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another driver on the road, call us at 770-209-2120. Our motorcycle accident lawyers will listen to your situation and provide an honest assessment of your case.