Wearing a motorcycle helmet can make a huge difference when it comes to overall safety in a motorcycle accident: not just in terms of reducing your odds of dying in a motorcycle crash, but in preventing you from suffering many types of severe injuries. Many states acknowledge the increased safety offered by wearing a motorcycle helmet with laws that require motorcycle helmet use any time a rider or passenger gets on a motorcycle. Just how much does wearing a motorcycle helmet improve your odds of survival in a motorcycle crash, and how do you know if you should wear a motorcycle helmet? In general, you should wear a motorcycle helmet any time you get on your motorcycle, regardless of your intended destination. Helmet use can go a long way toward increasing your odds of survival. Learn more about helmet safety from our experienced motorcycle accident lawyers below.
Motorcycle Helmet Use and Survival by the Numbers
According to the CDC, motorcycle helmet use saves more than 1,800 lives each year. Helmet use might save an estimated 800 more lives if all riders chose to wear motorcycle helmets. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that wearing a motorcycle helmet can help reduce the risk of death by 1/3 in an accident. If you don't wear a helmet during a motorcycle crash, you have a much higher risk of a serious head or facial injury. Head injuries can quickly lead to death—sometimes instant death.
Motorcycle Helmet Use and Injury Prevention
The risk of a head injury in a motorcycle accident is, according to the CDC, reduced approximately 69 percent by wearing a motorcycle helmet. Motorcycle helmet use can also reduce the severity of injuries even when patients suffer brain injuries or head and facial injuries in a motorcycle accident. Patients who might otherwise have sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, for example, might note only mild to moderate symptoms due to helmet use. Even a minor to moderate decrease in injury severity can mean a huge difference in the quality of life for patients who have suffered head injuries in a motorcycle accident, particularly those who have suffered other trauma. Unfortunately, many riders fail to exercise adequate precautions on the road, which may increase the risk of severe injuries. Riders who do not wear helmets may suffer more facial injuries, a higher risk of broken bones in the face and head, and a greater overall risk of traumatic brain injury.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws by State
In many states, all passengers must wear motorcycle helmets every time they ride a motorcycle. However, several states set age limits that determine when riders must wear helmets and when they can get away with not wearing a helmet on the road. Keeping up with state laws can prove crucial to ensuring that you do not get pulled over and ticketed for riding without a helmet.
- Alaska: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Arizona: Riders 18 and up choose
- Arkansas: Riders 21 and up can choose
- Colorado: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Connecticut: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Delaware: Riders 19 and up can choose
- Florida: Riders 21 and up can choose
- Hawaii: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Idaho: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Indiana: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Kansas: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Kentucky: Riders 21 and up can choose
- Maine: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Michigan: Riders 21 and up can choose
- Minnesota: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Missouri: Riders 26 and up can choose
- Montana: Riders 18 and up can choose
- New Mexico: Riders 18 and up can choose
- North Dakota: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Ohio: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Oklahoma: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Pennsylvania: Riders 21 and up can choose
- Rhode Island: Riders 21 and up can choose
- South Carolina: Riders 21 and up can choose
- South Dakota: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Texas: Riders 21 and up can choose
- Utah: Riders 21 and up can choose
- Wisconsin: Riders 18 and up can choose
- Wyoming: Riders 18 and up can choose
Some states, including Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, have no laws regarding motorcycle helmet use, while other states mandate that all riders, regardless of age, must wear motorcycle helmets. Knowing the state’s laws can help save you from tickets and potential citations, but wearing a helmet at all times offers the best way to maintain safety on the road.
How Do Motorcycle Helmets Protect Against Injury and Death?
Motorcycle helmets offer several critical layers of protection that can help protect against injury and death on the road. By design, helmets help prevent or lessen the extent of traumatic brain injury on heavy impact due to accidents. Because motorcycles offer relatively little protection on their own, riders use helmets to help increase overall safety and keep themselves safe on the road.
Helmets contain a cushioned foam layer that helps redistribute the force of a collision.
Motorcycle accidents often cause motorcycle riders to fall from their bikes and hit the road hard. Unfortunately, many riders have little control over those falls and can quickly end up hitting their heads against the road, against the vehicle that struck them, or against obstacles that might spring up in their way. In a collision with no helmet, the rider’s head absorbs all that force. The brain may strike against the inside of the skull, leading to severe bruising, bleeding, and the potential for traumatic brain injury. On the other hand, a motorcycle helmet can help redistribute that force. The helmet takes the force and spreads it through the padding instead of the brain. While the helmet cannot eliminate the risk of traumatic brain injury from an accident entirely, it can reduce it substantially.
Helmets offer protection against facial injuries and head abrasions.
Helmets also provide an extra layer of protection: many have a raised design that prevents the rider from suffering serious facial abrasions in an accident. Riders who wear helmets suffer lower rates of facial trauma, including broken bones in the face.
Helmets help protect against neck trauma.
Many motorcycle helmets have a design intended to help support the neck in an accident. Many motorcycle accidents involve a great deal of force and trauma to the neck and may result in substantial neck injuries, ranging from strained muscles and herniated discs to spinal cord injuries. A helmet helps protect against some of that trauma and reduces the risk of neck injuries in an accident.
Do Motorcycle Helmets Eliminate the Risk of Concussion or Death?
Motorcycle helmets cannot provide certain protection against a concussion or even death in a motorcycle accident. Many motorcycle accident injuries can lead to death, including excessive blood loss or trauma to the trunk. However, wearing a motorcycle helmet can increase the odds that you will survive even a severe motorcycle crash.
The Challenges Caused by Concussions and Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injury can cause immense challenges for the victim. Even minor traumatic brain injuries can erode the victim’s focus, concentration, memory, and ability to care for themself. Some people suffer emotional challenges, even if they ended up with a mild traumatic brain injury. Concussions can keep people out of work for weeks or even months. Even minor brain injuries can linger for more than a year after the initial accident. As brain injuries increase in severity, patients may experience more, longer-lasting symptoms, including:
- Problems with short-term memory loss. Many patients may, for example, have a hard time remembering what they did with an item in their hands just moments before, or struggle to remember instructions given to them.
- Challenges with creative thinking and problem-solving. Creativity requires a high level of brain function. Patients in creative professions, or those who engage in creative hobbies regularly, may notice greater overall deficits in their lives because of that lost creativity.
- Loss of overall focus when engaging in both work and leisure tasks. Many patients will not only have a hard time keeping up with their work tasks or keeping their attention on things assigned to them, but they may also have trouble holding attention long enough to engage in activities they enjoy.
- Problems with emotional regulation. Some patients notice that they experience emotion differently or more intensely because of a brain injury. They may react inappropriately to emotional stimuli or have difficulty holding back emotional reactions.
- Long-term memory issues. Sometimes, brain injuries can impact the area of the brain responsible for maintaining long-term memories. While patients may get some memories back over time, as the brain heals, other memories may permanently disappear because of brain injuries.
Patients with severe brain injuries cannot perform basic self-care tasks. They may struggle to regulate their emotions in crowds. They may need to have regular, ongoing supervision or require assistance keeping up with home and family-care tasks. Brain injuries can have long-lasting repercussions, including symptoms that may last for years after the patient’s accident. In some cases, patients with moderate to severe brain injuries may suffer permanent challenges because of their injuries. Wearing a helmet can help decrease the severity of traumatic brain injury in an accident and help victims of motorcycle accidents avoid those severe symptoms.
When Should I Wear a Helmet?
When riding through a state, including Florida, where you do not necessarily have to wear a motorcycle helmet, you may find yourself wondering, “When should I wear a motorcycle helmet?” As someone over eighteen in most states that have age limits for helmet mandates, and over twenty-one in others, you may find yourself wondering if you must wear a motorcycle helmet. While state law may not mandate helmet use, you should always wear a motorcycle helmet to help reduce the risk of serious trauma and injury in an accident. Wearing a motorcycle helmet can significantly reduce your odds of severe injury or death. Failure to wear a motorcycle accident could turn your fun ride into the last ride you get to take. Even if you do not die in a motorcycle accident, you may end up with severe injuries that you carry with you for the rest of your life. You should wear a helmet both out on the road and when riding a motorcycle or other motor-propelled vehicle on dirt tracks or even in the backyard. Wearing a helmet can significantly decrease your risk of suffering serious injuries no matter where your biking journeys take you or what challenges you might face along the way.
How Does Helmet Use Affect My Right to File a Legal Claim?
If you suffer head trauma in a motorcycle accident, you may file a claim for the damages you sustained in the accident, particularly if you sustained your head injuries in a state that does not mandate motorcycle helmets. However, in some cases, the insurance company may try to reduce your compensation by the amount of liability you bear for your injuries, including liability caused by not wearing a helmet. If you have suffered head trauma in a motorcycle accident, working with a motorcycle accident lawyer can help you determine the compensation you actually deserve, including how helmet use, or lack thereof, may affect your right to file a motorcycle accident claim. Contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon after your motorcycle accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation and the steps you need to take to maximize the compensation you can recover.