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CDC: Helmet Laws Save States Money

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Motorcycle Helmet Use Study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study directed at motorcycle-helmet use.

The study found that annual cost savings (medical, productivity and other injury-related costs) in states with universal motorcycle-helmet laws were almost four times greater among per-registered motorcycles than in states without the laws.

In these states with universal helmet laws, which require both rider and passenger to wear a helmet at all times, annual state costs ranged from a high of $394 million in California, which has a universal helmet law, to a low of $2.6 million in New Mexico (partial helmet law, which only requires riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet.

These states with universal helmet laws save money by reducing crash-related injuries and deaths, which reduces overall costs. According to a CDC analysis of fatal crash data from 2008 to 2010, 12 percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not wearing helmets. In comparison, 64 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with partial helmet laws, and 79 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws.

Thomas R. Frieden (M.D., M.P.H., CDC Director) says: “Increasing motorcycle helmet use can save lives and money. In 2010, more than $3 billion in economic costs were saved due to helmet use in the United States. Another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.”

Helmets prevent 37 percent of crash deaths among riders and 41 percent among passengers. They also prevent 13 percent of serious injuries and 8 percent of minor injuries to riders and passengers, the CDC reports.

For the study, CDC researchers analyzed data from two national sources: 2008-2010 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data and 2010 data on economic costs saved by motorcycle helmet use, both from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatal crash data from FARS provide an accurate means of determining in each state whether riders wore helmets at the time of these severe crashes. Cost savings estimates included medical and emergency services costs, work-related and household productivity losses, insurance administration costs, and legal costs resulting from deaths and injuries from motorcycle crashes.

Universal helmet laws are the most effective strategy for increasing helmet use and protecting motorcycle riders and their passengers. As of May 2012, 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 28 states had partial helmet laws, and three states had no helmet law.

CDC is also releasing an updated version of Motorcycle Safety: How To Save Lives and Save Money (Motorcycle Safety Guide), designed to convey evidence-based motorcycle safety information in an easy-to-use format.

Linda C. Degutis (Dr. P.H., M.S.N., Director of CDC’s Injury Center) says: “It’s simple advice – wear a helmet to save your life. Motorcycling is fun and provides riders a sense of freedom, but that also brings responsibility to use proper safety equipment, including helmets.”

CDC encourages motorcycle riders to:

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Never ride a motorcycle after drinking.
  • Wear protective clothing that provides some level of injury protection.
  • Avoid tailgating.
  • Maintain a safe speed and exercise caution when traveling over slippery surfaces or gravel.

CDC’s Injury Center works to protect the safety of everyone on the roads, every day. For more information about motorcycle and overall motor vehicle safety, please visit cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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