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Safe or Not: The Controversy Behind Motorcycle Helmet Safety


There is a split in the motorcycle community about the safety benefits associated with wearing a motorcycle helmet. Many motorcycle enthusiasts are politically active about repealing or relaxing state helmet laws. Proponents of lifting mandatory helmet laws cite various studies suggesting that the safety benefits of wearing a motorcycle are marginal.

Some go as far as to claim that motorcycle helmets can be dangerous. According to opponents of mandatory helmet laws, the additional weight of a motorcycle helmet causes severe whiplash injuries. To support this assertion, some supporters cite the fact that NASCAR began requiring helmets to be fastened to cars after racer Dale Earnhardt died from a severe neck injury.

Those who support state motorcycle helmet law reform also argue that relaxed motorcycle helmet laws bring in more registrations, citing data from Florida.

Under Florida law “a person over 21 years of age may operate or ride upon a motorcycle without wearing protective headgear securely fastened upon his or her head if such person is covered by an insurance policy providing for at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash while operating or riding on a motorcycle.”

Florida’s current motorcycle helmet law was implemented in 2000. Although fatalities rose by 20%, motorcycle registrations doubled after the motorcycle law went into effect. However, states that have engaged in motorcycle helmet reform also experience a significant increase in non-fatal injuries. For example, insurance claims rose 22% after Michigan passed its law relaxing motorcycle helmet requirements.

NHTSA Statistics

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only 19 states required helmet use for all motorcyclists. In 28 states Helmet use is only required for a subset of motorcyclists. In 2016, motorcycle helmets saved 1,859 lives. Projections indicate that 802 more lives would have been saved had all motorcycle riders worn a helmet.

Additionally, the NHTSA estimates that helmets are 37% effective in protecting riders against fatal injuries, and 41% for motorcycle passengers. Thus, “for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.”

In contrast, 60% of motorcyclists killed in 2016 were not wearing helmets in states with lifted helmet laws. When compared to states with helmet laws, only 8% of motorcycle fatalities involved helmetless riders.

A Tragic Example Regarding Helmet Safety

Perhaps one of the most compelling and tragic instances illustrating the safety benefits of helmet use involves the 2011 death of a motorcyclist while participating in a helmet protest rally in New York. 55-year-old Philip Contos lost control of his 1983 Harley Davidson after hitting his breaks to avoid a collision. As a result, Contos was launched over the Harley’s handlebars, striking his head on the pavement. Not long after he was hospitalized, Contos passed away from traumatic injuries.

According to a New York state trooper, the doctor who pronounced his death said that “[Contos] would’ve no doubt survived the accident had he been wearing a helmet.”

Call a Dedicated Daytona Beach Motorcycle Attorney Today

Motorcycle accidents can be devastating, especially without the protection of a helmet. If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident, you might have a right to recover damages if another person was at fault. A skilled Daytona Beach motorcycle accident attorney can help you with your injury claim. At Politis & Matovina, P.A., our experience with personal injury litigation spans years’ worth of cases, including motorcycle accident injury claims. We are dedicated to providing Daytona Beach residents with quality legal representation to preserve their right to receive compensation for their injuries. If you or a loved one sustained a head injury, even while wearing a helmet and regardless of fault, it could be because of a defect in the helmet. 

For more information on how our motorcycle injury lawyers can help you, call Politis & Matovina, P.A. at (386) 333-6613 for a free consultation.