A Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Law Controversy

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Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Riders’ Perspectives on Freedom

here are a couple of essential factors to remember when discussing what any community, including motorcyclists, thinks 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 most motorcyclists is that they like to ride. For some motorcyclists, riding is a physical manifestation of freedom – and they like their freedom. Some riders take offense to any imposition on their freedom or personal choices.

Many motorcycle riders who wear helmets may not believe motorcycle 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 they don’t view as a huge imposition, is entirely appropriate.

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

What Do the Facts Say?

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

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

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

So What’s The Verdict?

The facts and evidence are indisputable – wearing a helmet improves motorcycle safety. It’s the personal choice aspect of the argument that stirs up so much debate in the motorcycle community.

It all comes down to what each motorcyclist thinks is most important – personal freedom or physical safety. It’s an individual decision each rider has to make for themselves, and no one else can decide that for them.

That being said, educating yourself on the laws in your area and researching helmet safety facts before making any decisions is essential. The more information you have, the better-informed decision you can make regarding motorcycle safety and helmet laws.

Regardless of personal opinions, motorcycle safety should always be a priority for any rider. By taking the time to understand all aspects of the debate, riders can make better decisions about their situation and stay safe while riding.

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

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

Their primary 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 an 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? While that’s true, wearing a helmet reduces your risk of death or severe injury in the event of a motorcycle crash. It’s hard to argue with science.

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. Regardless of whether or not it’s legally required, a rider who refuses to wear a helmet may appear careless to a jury.

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

At the Dressie Law Firm, we represent many people with 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 770-756-6333. Our motorcycle accident lawyers will listen to your situation and provide an honest assessment of your case. We understand the intrinsic risks of riding and are here to help you get back on your feet.

Call us today to schedule a consultation. Let us fight so you can heal. Our team is here to help you in any way we can. Don’t be afraid to reach out – we’re here to listen and provide the guidance you deserve.

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