NTSB Urges Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

On Nov. 17, 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board updated its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements directed at state governments by adding a new issue area, motorcycle safety.

“State governments are in a unique position to effect the most significant improvement in certain areas of transportation safety,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said.

“Our Most Wanted List spotlights those states that have made noteworthy progress in better protecting the traveling public – and those that have not,” around improved motorcycle safety.

The NTSB added this new issue area to the list. From 1997 through 2008, the number of motorcycle fatalities more than doubled during a period when overall highway fatalities declined.

Although the number of motorcycle fatalities fell in 2009, the 4,400 deaths still outnumber those in aviation, rail, marine and pipeline combined.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes.

The NTSB therefore recommends that everyone aboard a motorcycle be required to wear a helmet that complies with DOT’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218.

Standard 218 has been effective since March 1, 1974. This standard establishes minimum performance requirements for helmets designed for use by motorcyclists and other motor vehicle users.

The purpose of this standard is to reduce deaths and injuries to motorcyclists and other motor vehicle users resulting from head impacts.

Currently, 20 States, the District of Columbia and 4 territories have universal helmet laws that apply to all motorcycle riders.

Twenty-seven States and one territory have partial laws the require minors and/or passengers to wear helmets. Three States; Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire have no motorcycle helmet laws.


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