Should Motorcycle Helmets be Required by Law?

Most people understand the dangers associated with riding a motorcycle without a helmet. However, motorcycle helmet laws vary depending on what state you are in. New Hampshire, Iowa, and Illinois are the only states that do not have any law in place regarding wearing a helmet.

There are 19 states that have passed universal motorcycle helmet laws which requires helmets for all riders. The remaining states only require helmets for specific riders.

The federal government attempted to require universal helmet laws in all states in 1967 by promising highway safety funds for states that passed the law. All but 3 states complied until 1976 when it was decided by Congress that the federal government could not issue a penalty for noncompliance.

Some states have flip-flopped on the issue over the years. For example, the state of Louisiana has been notorious for changing the law for helmet use. It has gone back and forth over the last few decades until 2014 when they most recently passed the universal helmet laws again. Studies proved that helmet use decreased and fatalities significantly increased in 2009 the last time the laws were relaxed. This confused some citizens in Louisiana that have dealt with the reality of increased fatal motorcycle accidents to understand why some groups still haven’t given up hope of repealing the law once again.

The biggest debate you will hear from most riders is that they want to have the freedom of choice when it comes to wearing a helmet or not. Most riders know that riding without a helmet is dangerous, but the decision to ride a motorcycle in general is dangerous to begin with.
An even bigger announce for motorcyclists is when cops will set up a motorcycle only roadblock with the intention of catching riders without a helmet.

The most common cause of an accident involving a motorcycle is generally another vehicle who did not notice that the bike was there in time. Some riders argue that a helmet gives them just a slight disadvantage when this happens because it will block some of their vision and sense of hearing that could have helped their reflexes.

In the states that agree that riders should be able to have the freedom to decide if they wear a helmet some states have issued certain criteria. In Texas, all drivers over the age of 21 can decide to not wear a helmet if they have completed a safety course and are properly covered by medical insurance. In Rhode Island, all drivers over 21 can legally go without a helmet if they have had their license for over a year, but all passengers are required to wear a helmet. In Florida, the driver and passenger both must be over 21 years old and have at least $10,000 in medical insurance coverage for motorcycle-related injuries to not wear a helmet.

One of the biggest arguments against repealing helmet laws is typically the cost to tax payers when a rider is injured. Very few motorcycle accidents involve minor injuries since the driver is so exposed. It seems that the government is willing to allow people to have the freedom of choice on if they want to protect their head or not – if they are willing to also cover the medical bills that come with it.

It is even more interesting when you look at the laws regarding the use of seat belts in the same states that have relaxed helmet laws. Both Illinois and Iowa do not have helmet laws, but they have primary enforcement laws concerning seat belts. New Hampshire is the only state with no seat belt or motorcycle helmet laws in place.

Other than medical bills, it is hard to come up with a reason why helmet use would hurt anyone but the driver on a motorcycle. Seat belts in cars are important because during an accident it is possible for someone in the car to be flung at high speeds if they are not restrained, which could injure someone else in the vehicle. It is very rare that this would happen with a motorcycle accident. This makes it very difficult to decide how involved the government should be allowed when it comes to helmet laws on motorcycles.

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