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How Much Do Motorcycle Helmets Prevent Injury in an Accident?

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Posted By Legal Team | April 17 2024 | Motorcycle Accidents, Traumatic Brain Injury

Riding the open roads in the open-air, unencumbered design of a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience. Sadly, the same unclosed design that makes riding a motorcycle so thrilling also leaves riders vulnerable to direct contact with the road and obstacles in a crash, often causing serious or catastrophic injuries or death. Currently, 18 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have mandatory helmet laws for all motorcyclists, including in Georgia. So, how helpful are motorcycle helmets in preventing injuries in motorcycle accidents?

Motorcycle Accident Statistics

Each year, Americans suffer thousands of injuries and deaths due to motorcycle accidents. In 2020, 5,500 motorcyclists died from their injuries, including traumatic brain injuries. Over 180,000 riders received emergency medical treatment in hospital emergency rooms in 2020 alone. More recent statistics are also concerning, including the following:

  • Out of 934 motorcyclists surveyed, DOT-Compliant motorcycle helmet use was only 66.5% in 2022
  • Helmet use declined for those who describe their travel as in “light traffic” from 59% in 2021 to 35.5% in 2022
  • Use of non-DOT-compliant helmets increased in 2022 over 2021, rising from 6.1% to 10.9%

What is a DOT-Compliant Helmet?

A helmet that meets the safety standards set by the Department of Transportation is a DOT-compliant helmet. These motorcycle helmets have DOT stickers on the back portion of the helmet. They must be at least one inch thick, cover the user’s ears, and include sturdy chin straps. Atlanta personal injury attorneys suggest that if the helmet has a DOT sticker but does not meet these standards the sticker could be counterfeit.

Wearing a DOT-Approved Helmet Reduces the Risk of Death

According to the CDC, motorcycle helmets save about 1,800 lives each year. An estimated 750 further lives would be saved if all riders wore helmets. The U.S. would save about $1.5 billion annually on medical costs if all motorcyclists wore helmets. A DOT-approved helmet reduces the risk of death to a motorcyclist by about 37% for operators and 41% for passengers. They also reduce head injuries by 69%.

Some brain injuries occur in spite of a protective helmet. This happens when a powerful crash force causes the brain to bang against the bony interior of the skull or to move and twist inside the skull. However, a helmet protects against skull fractures and many other types of head injuries. Although a helmet cannot prevent all brain injuries from motorcycle accidents, it significantly lowers the chance of death in a crash. Riders who might otherwise have suffered a catastrophic brain injury and death may instead suffer a milder brain injury or concussion.

Why Don’t All States Have Mandatory Helmet Laws?

Most states have some types of helmet laws but not all states require helmets for all users. Many states require helmets only for those under age 18. Motorcycle accident lawyers in Atlanta share that some states allow adults to ride without helmets only if they have proof of adequate health insurance coverage. In Missouri, only riders over 26 may choose not to wear a helmet. Because helmet laws fall under the purview of state law, the federal government does not mandate their use. However, it’s important to understand that failing to wear a helmet even in states where they are not legally required can impact an injury victim’s ability to recover compensation after a motorcycle accident.

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