Does wearing helmets save lives? New research says yes

A new study by a University of Michigan researcher is adding more fuel to the motorcycle helmet debate.

Last year, Michigan passed a law which allows adults over 21 to ride without a helmet if they have been licensed for at least two years or have passed a safety course. Supporters argued it would increase tourism revenue by attracting more riders. But is the law, which went into effect April 13, costing lives?

Carol Flannagan, an assistant research assistant at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s Biosciences Group, studied data from April 13 through December 31 and compared it to numbers from that same period in previous years. She estimates that there would have been 26 fewer deaths and 49 fewer serious injuries if all riders had worn helmets.

Flannagan’s study has spurred opponents of the law to push lawmakers to reconsider the law and once again force riders to wear helmets.

But one motorcycle riding advocacy group questions the accuracy of Flanagan’s analysis. Vince Consiglio, president of Michigan’s American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, said her study fails to take into account last year’s mild weather, which probably meant more people were riding. Consiglio said ABATE did its own study looking at data from January through August in 2011 and 2012. The data showed that fatalities decreased from 89 in 2011 to 85 in 2012 while the number of registrations increased.

This isn’t the only study to point out the benefits of wearing a helmet while riding. Helmets are estimated to reduce the risk of a motorcycle crash death by 37 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  In Florida, when the state repealed its motorcycle helmet law for adults in 2000, motorcycle fatalities jumped from 259 in 2000 to 413 in 2009.

At MotorEagles, we always recommend taking the safer option and wearing a helmet. But we also are support individuals having the right to choose for themselves.


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