At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we’re proud to stand up for the rights of motorcyclists and to represent bikers injured by the carelessness of other motorists. We’re bikers ourselves, so we understand the challenges and biases motorcyclists face out on the roads and in our courtrooms. However, after years of experience helping severely-injured bikers, we also believe in riders doing everything they can to protect themselves from the dangers on the road. One of the simplest things a motorcyclist can do is wear a helmet.
Risks of Riding Without a Helmet
According to Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2013, 4,668 motorcyclists were killed and 88,000 were injured in traffic crashes. NHTSA estimates that wearing a helmet saved the lives of 1,630 bikers in 2013. Additional data indicates that motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury in a crash by 69 percent and reduce the risk of death by 43 percent. Given these statistics, why do so many bikers choose not to wear helmets?
State Laws Have a Major Effect on Helmet Use
Often in an effort to protect personal freedom, many states either don’t have or have recently repealed laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws; 28 states have laws requiring some bikers to use helmets; and three states have no helmet laws.
Currently, Kansas and Missouri have different helmet laws, but that may change. In Kansas, only riders under the age of 18 are required by law to wear a helmet. Once a rider turns 18, he may legally choose to not wear a helmet. Missouri currently has a universal helmet law requiring all riders to wear one, but a bill to repeal this law passed a first round of votes in the House in April, 2016. Supporters of the bill say riders are entitled to choose whether they want to wear a helmet or not, which is the logic used by other legislators in states without helmet laws.
However, statistics show that when helmets are required by state law, more people wear them and lives are saved. In 2013, in states without universal helmet laws, 59 percent of the motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets—as opposed to only 8 percent of those in states with universal helmet laws. In Michigan, which repealed a universal helmet law in 2012, helmet use among crash victims dropped from 98 percent to 74 percent in the eight months following the change in helmet laws.
How to Choose a Helmet
Clearly, the smart thing to do when riding a motorcycle is to wear a helmet, even in states that don’t require riders to wear one. If comfort is a concern, take the time to find a helmet that fits properly and offers ventilation to keep you cool.
Some types of helmet you may consider include:
- Full face. This is the safest type of helmet and the one that is most recommended for optimum protection. This helmet covers a rider’s whole face and has a face shield that also protects the eyes.
- Open-face. This helmet is more comfortable for some riders, but does not offer the full face and chin protection of the full-face model. It should be paired with riding goggles or some other form of eye protection.
- Half-helmet. Also known as a “shorty,” this helmet doesn’t offer much protection and is likely to come off in a crash.
Along with reducing the risk of a serious head injury, helmets also protect riders from annoyances such as road debris, bugs, and weather conditions. Before making what could be a fatal decision to not wear a helmet in Kansas, take time to weigh all the benefits.
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