Universal Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws May Reduce Risk of Brain Injuries

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A new study released at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons in San Francisco suggests that state laws requiring motorcycle helmet use by all riders may lower the rates of traumatic brain injuries, especially in young riders.

In the study, researchers examined a database that tracked the reason patients were admitted to hospitals in 2011. Their review found 598 cases (representing 39 states) where individuals had been admitted to the hospital after suffering traumatic brain injuries due to motorcycle accidents.

The review found that the rate of traumatic brain injuries per motorcycle accident was lower in states that had universal helmet laws compared to states that only required helmets for riders of certain ages. Rates were as follows:

  • 282 traumatic brain injuries per 1,000 accidents in states requiring universal helmet use;
  • 307 traumatic brain injuries per 1,000 accidents in states with laws requiring helmets for riders under 18 year old; and
  • 366 traumatic brain injuries per 1,000 accidents in states with laws requiring helmet for riders under 21 years old.

After accounting for all injuries, the researchers determined that young rider in states with universal helmet laws were 2.5 times less likely to suffer a traumatic head injury that in states with graduated age restrictions or no helmet restrictions at all. Death rates also were lower in states with universal helmet laws, the researchers found.

However, while helmet use may reduce injuries, motorcyclists in Florida are not necessarily required by law to wear a helmet. Specifically, Florida law currently provides that anyone over 21 years of age may operate or ride on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet if the person is covered by an insurance policy that that provides for at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries that may result from operating or riding on a motorcycle.

Florida Motorcycle Accidents

Riding a motorcycle gives riders the opportunity to experience an amazing sense of freedom and connection with the outdoors. However, this openness means motorcycle riders do not have the level of protection created by an enclosed vehicle, which is why motorcycle crashes often result in serious trauma to drivers of motorcycles and their passengers.

Motorcyclists are entitled to share the road with other vehicles and they are entitled to a full lane. Yet, because motor vehicle operators do not always look for motorcyclists and often misjudge their speed, motorcycle accidents are occurring more frequently around the country. In Florida, for instance, motorcycle injuries have increased by 50 percent and motorcycle fatalities have increased by almost 90 percent during the past decade. (In contrast, during the same time period, motor vehicle fatalities have reduce by 20 percent and motor vehicle injuries have reduced by 10 percent.)

For those fatally injured in a Florida motorcycle accident, records show that:

  • 29 percent of motorcycle fatalities were due to traumatic brain injury;
  • 35 percent were due to injuries to multiple body regions;
  • 30 percent were caused by injuries to unspecified body regions; and
  • 9 percent were caused by injuries to the thorax (chest or mid-body) area, including the heart, lungs, and spine.

For non-fatal Florida motorcycle injuries that required hospitalization, the most common injuries were:

  • upper and lower extremity injuries (legs)- over 50 percent
  • cuts, abrasions, lacerations, and fractures- over 50 percent
  • traumatic brain injuries- 20 percent
  • torso injuries (upper body, trunk, chest, internal organs)- 20 percent

Costs Of Motorcycle Accidents

The seriousness of most motorcycle accidents means that those injured in the crash require significant and extensive medical treatment and rehabilitative care. In 2011, the median hospital charge for motorcyclists admitted to a Florida hospital for the treatment of motorcycle crash injuries was $56,966. For those treated and released from a Florida emergency department, the average (median) cost was $4,585.

These costs can be financially devastating for the motorcycle accident victims, especially because 49 percent of motorcyclist hospitalizations and emergency department visits were not covered by commercial insurance in 2011.

Tallahassee Legal Help For Motorcycle Accident Victims

All drivers, including those on motorcycles and mopeds, have equal responsibilities when they are on the road. This means everyone needs to follow the rules of the road at intersections, when turning, in traffic, when following other vehicles, and when parking. In fact, many motorcycle crashes could be avoided if other vehicle drivers watched more carefully for motorcycles and gave them equal rights.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case. If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another party or parties, the skilled personal injury attorneys at Fasig & Brooks can help you obtain the financial compensation you are entitled to for your motorcycle injuries and losses. The facts of every motorcycle accident are unique and we would like to hear about your situation so that we can work with you to develop the best strategies for your case. Call us today at (850) 222-3232 or use our online contact form for tough, experienced legal representation in the Tallahassee and Southern Georgia area.