Increase in Motorcycle Deaths Causing Alarm
According to an April 2008 Safety Alert, deaths in motorcycle crashes have more than doubled in the past 10 years. In 1997, 2,116 people died in the U.S. in motorcycle accidents; the yearly total in 2006 was 4,810. The same year, another 88,000 people were injured in Las Vegas motorcycle accidents.
In fact, each year in the U.S., the number of motorcycle-related deaths is more than twice the yearly total of people killed in all rail, pipeline, marine, and airplane accidents in the U.S. combined.
Head Injuries: The Leading Cause of Death
The leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes is head injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stresses that a Department of Transportation (DOT)-compliant motorcycle helmet, worn properly, decreases the overall risk of being killed in a crash by 37%.
In addition, an individual who is not wearing a helmet when involved in a motorcycle crash is three times more likely to suffer a brain injury than a person who wears a helmet.
The medical costs and other losses incurred by motorcycle riders without helmets who are involved in crashes are estimated to be an average of $310,000 per crash, or more than four times the cost of accidents involving helmeted riders.
Nevada Has a Universal Helmet Law for Motorcyclists
A major factor in the passage of motorcycle helmet laws is the cost to taxpayers of taking care of non-helmeted riders injured in crashes. Although motorcyclists without helmets were involved in 36% of all motorcycle crashes in 2005, their injuries and fatalities accounted for 70% of the total cost of all motorcycle crashes ($12.2 billion), according to the NTSB.
Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories have “universal”? helmet laws – that is, all motorcycle riders and passengers have to wear helmets. According to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, “motorcyclists and passengers are required to wear helmets in Nevada. The only exception is for mopeds 50 cc or under with less than 2 horsepower and capable of no more than 30 mph.”
Helmets Save Lives in Motorcycle Crashes
The NTSB also found that the few states that repealed their laws requiring all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet have seen their helmet usage rate drop sharply, with a significant increase in injuries and deaths in motorcycle crashes.