Motorcycle helmet laws are the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to subject matter that pits “personal freedom” against common sense. According to an insurance industry study – last year in Michigan the average medical claim from a motorcycle crash rose by more than 20 percent after the state stopped requiring all riders to wear helmets. Riders have found ways to erode safety laws, while the number of deaths and serious injury climb.
Thursday, May 30, 2013 the AP reported that a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found the average insurance payment on a motorcycle injury claim was $5,410 in the two years prior to the law being passed, and $7,257 afterwards. That is an increase of 34 percent.
“The cost per injury claim is significantly higher after the law changed than before, which is consistent with other research that shows riding without a helmet leads to more head injuries,” said David Zuby, chief research officer for the data institute and an affiliated organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The data institute publishes insurance loss statistics on most car, SUV, pickup truck and motorcycle models on U.S. roads.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that in states with universal helmet laws, 97 percent of riders wore helmets, compared with 58 percent of motorcyclists in states without universal helmet laws.
Other studies have shown an increase in motorcycle deaths after states choose to eliminate or weaken mandatory helmet laws, this study is the first to look specifically at the effect of repealing helmet requirements on the severity of injuries as measured by medical insurance claims.
In a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study, released in June 2012, it was found that universal helmet laws netted more than $3 billion in cost savings in 2010 by increasing helmet use. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, another $1.4 billion could have been saved, says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
Savings in states with a universal helmet law were, on average, nearly four times greater per registered motorcycle than in states without such a law. Average savings per 100,000 registered motorcycles, according to the CDC, are:
• $73 million: States with a universal helmet law.
• $21 million: States with a partial helmet law.
• $9 million: States with no law.
Some states have set minimum medical insurance requirements, but that doesn’t come close to covering the lifelong care of a rider who has crashed and is severely brain-injured. When someone has severely injured their brain, they are unable to work, and often are taken care of by the state in the form of Medicaid, a taxpayer funded program. There is no such thing as a free ride, and the public is picking up the tab.
According to an analysis by the Governors Highway Safety Association of preliminary 2012 data, motorcycle deaths have risen in 14 of the past 15 years, and have reached an all-time high of more than 5,000.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, 28 states require only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet, it is that way in Ohio as the law only required riders who are 17 years old and younger to wear a helmet. States have been repealing or weakening mandatory helmet laws for nearly two decades.
Information for this article gathered from the Associated Press, Centers for Disease Control, and the Highway Safety Commission