In 2011, the Governors Highway Safety Association issued its annual national motorcycle accident report, as well as the agency's recommendations on what states can do to reduce motorcycle crash fatalities. The most effective way to prevent motorcycle accident deaths, the report found, is to enact a universal motorcycle helmet requirement. Currently, only 19 states have such a law in place. In Pennsylvania, only motorcyclists under the age of 21 or those who have been riding for two years or less are required to wear a helmet.
But are helmets really the most effective way to prevent motorcycle accident fatalities? Some experts are not so sure.
In a recent article in the Erie Times-News, Pennsylvania coroner Lyell Cook said that helmets only offer real protection from injury and death in low-speed crashes. If a motorcyclist is driving faster than 30 miles per hour at the time of the crash, a helmet probably will not save his or her life or prevent serious injury.
This is because most motorcycle accidents result in the motorcyclist being thrown from the bike, due simply to the nature of the vehicle. The force of these ejections often cause a broken neck, broken back and similar injuries that can cause death regardless of whether the motorcyclist suffered a head injury in the crash. And bikers who do not suffer immediately fatal injuries are at an increased risk of death from blood clots, sepsis and other potentially life-threatening complications that commonly result from motorcycle accident injuries.
So does this mean that motorcyclists should not wear helmets? Of course not. It just means that they need to be aware of and take every possible step to prevent the other potential risks that are often inherent to motorcycling.
Source: Erie Times-News, "Motorcycle fatalities up in Erie County in 2012," Ron Leonardi, Oct. 25, 2012