Motorcycle Trends in the United States

Motorcycle Trends in the United States

Box B: Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws

In a January 2008 special report on motorcycle helmet use laws, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “encourages each state to have and enforce a law requiring all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear helmets meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.” [9] NHTSA also notes that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended on September 11, 2007 that all states adopt such a law. The report cites statistics showing the safety benefits of motorcycle helmets. For example, head injuries are a leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Unhelmeted motorcyclists are three times more likely to suffer brain injury and 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than helmeted motorcyclists. But the repeal of state universal helmet laws (which require all riders to wear helmets) has resulted in fewer riders wearing helmets, with helmet use dropping nationally from 71 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2006. In some states only minors are required to wear helmets, but even in those states fewer than 40 percent of fatally injured minors were actually wearing helmets. As of January 2008, only 20 states required all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, while 28 states required only those under a certain age (e.g., 18) to wear helmets. Two states had no helmet laws.