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Motorcycle safety: Not just about helmets

Wearing a motorcycle helmet is not likely to hurt anyone if they get into a motorcycle accident. Therefore, many bikers might think it is a worthwhile investment to buy a helmet and a worthwhile habit to wear the head protection during their joyrides. But would those "joyrides" be less joyful -- and perhaps even more dangerous -- if helmets were required?

Pennsylvania law has gone in both directions. Before 2003, motorcyclists were legally required to use helmets. Since then, things have changed. Just as drivers are free to choose to drive motorcycles, they are free to choose whether wearing a helmet is what they want to do. The fight continues, however, between pro-helmet law and anti-helmet law supporters. 

An article in The Morning Call recently challenged arguments that pro-helmet law advocates use to try to support their view that helmets are the key to preventing fatal motorcycle accidents. A critic of a statewide helmet requirement in Pennsylvania suggests that lawmakers who want to revert to the days of helmet laws fail to effectively compare accident statistics.

According to past Pennsylvania media reports, there's been between a 5.5 percent and 7.6 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities from 2011 to 2012. The inconsistency in those numbers alone creates doubt in the critic's mind. He also emphasizes the importance for researchers to compare the number of motorcycles on the road today compared to the past. Of course more people are getting hurt or killed in motorcycle crashes. There are more bikes on the roads.

With more motorcyclists sharing the roads with other motorists, more motorcyclists' lives are endangered. Rather than focusing on helmets as the safety solution, however, communities might do better to prevent fatalities by reminding drivers that they need to share the roads according to the law. They need to watch out for motorcycles.

 

Source: The Morning Call, "Motorcycle fatality statistics refute claims that helmet-optional law increases rate," Paul Carpenter, April 25, 2013

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