Motorcycle Helmet laws Essay

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Over the past 30 years, many states have enacted mandatory helmet laws for motorcycle drivers. There have been many states that have rescinded these laws for reasons that may not be known by those most interested the motorcycle rider him/herself. Currently, less than half of all U. S. states require helmets for motorcycle operators. One who is interested in this topic may wonder how those that are in positions to give the thumbs up or thumbs down regarding these laws make their decision one way or the other. Do they have facts, data and evidence to support their verdicts?

Or, are they influenced by stories of horrific motorcycle fatalities recited to them by friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, church members, or acquaintances at the grocery store, garden center and/or the local pub? Could there be a possibility that they might pass a mandatory helmet law due to a knee-jerk reaction to a particularly heinous accident that recently occurred and been covered by television, radio, newspaper and the internet? What are the chances that one of those decision makers was an avid rider who escaped serious injury due to donning a helmet while riding?

Those questions might also lead to others, for example, about how much influence lobbyists have when it comes down to the final moments prior to the enactment or veto of a particular bill. Does a lobbyist that is pro-mandatory helmets have more clout, or would, for example, a group of motorcycle drivers have any influence? The typical motorcycle rider and/or the general public most likely has no idea what factors are explored prior to the determination of those who have license to make the decision as to how one should dress if they are heading out on a motorcycle.

Despite empirical evidence that supports the use of helmets, avid motorcyclists argue that helmet laws violate the Ninth Amendment, which states, no law shall be enacted that regulates the individuals Motorcycle Helmet Laws 3 freedom to choose his personal actions and mode of dress so long as it does not in any way affect others. Trends over the past several years have been to review and disseminate accident and other reports written by police and highway patrol officers, hospital workers, witnesses to the scene and road construction workers who may have been at the site at the time of the accident.

Figures and findings resulting from the National Highway Safety Act have been accessed. Compilations from states motor vehicle divisions and departments of transportation have also been employed extensively to determine if enactment of mandatory helmet laws decreases injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes. These reports and statistics, however, have not included details regarding factors such as age and/or sex of the driver, style and size of motorcycle, geographical demographics, or the number of months one rides or the time of day that the incident occurred.

Published research studies regarding statistics from several states were analyzed for this assignment. Some studies include all states of America, while many others focus on a particular state or group of states. Other types of research reviewed included telephone interviews with motorcyclists, articles by motorcycle groups pertaining to published findings and observations of riders, documenting whether or not they were wearing helmets. This student has a particular interest in this subject as she rides a motorcycle.

In the state where she resides (Minnesota) there is no mandatory helmet use law. Unfortunately, she is not aware of the particular reasons that her state has made the decision not to enact this law. Nevertheless, if she were extremely astute, she would have reviewed any statistics regarding her home state. The author is interested in discovering the reasoning that the powers that be chose to allow her to have the freedom Motorcycle Helmet Laws 4 to decide whether or not she will don a helmet prior to embarking on a journey.

Her hypotheses as to the reasons are probably so far off base that she would be hesitant to admit them to another. Ultimately, her quest is to evaluate the writings and attempt to discover if mandatory helmet laws do, indeed, decrease injuries and deaths as a result of a motorcycle crash. There are a variety of reasons a motorcycle driver makes the decision as to whether to wear a helmet while riding vs. not wearing one. Some of the factors that influence this decision appear to be age, demographics (urban vs.

rural living), and style and size of motorcycle. Other factors involved are where the person is riding (highway, city, side streets, rural areas, etc. ) Weather conditions and time of day (early morning, rush hour, nighttime) also should be taken into consideration. Maneuvering through hundreds of vehicles on the road and the rising or setting sun in ones eyes have a bearing on how well a driver can see. The incidence of accidents that result in injury and fatality has fluctuated with the enactment and rescinding of mandatory helmet use.

The United States federal government has had a vacillating approach to the use of motorcycle helmets since 1967, when the National Highway Safety Act (NHSA) was first passed, which required states to enforce helmet laws or be ineligible for certain funding programs at the state level. By 1976, Congress responded to pressures from individual states and motorcyclist interest groups by revoking the federal authority to assess penalties for non-compliance. Within 4 years after the NHSA was revised, 28 states repealed their mandatory helmet laws.

Congress later enacted the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act in 1991, which created incentives for states to enact helmet use; yet by the fall of 1995, Congress lifted sanctions against states lacking helmet law enforcement. This final repeal set the stage for state legislatures to repeal helmet laws entirely. Only Motorcycle Helmet Laws 5 20 states currently require the use of a protective helmet for all motorcycle riders, three states do not require a helmet for any riders, and 27 states require helmet use only under specific conditions.

Several studies suggest that injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes significantly decline after the passing of mandatory helmet laws in a variety of states. Consequently, the impression one perceives is that helmet use is the panacea to obliterating any injuries and deaths from serious motorcycle mishaps. The statistics that are embodied in these studies are Death to Accident Ratios, which compare the number of deaths to the number of related accidents.

Limitations of these studies are that many fail to take into account the fact that motorcycle registrations declined upon resolution of the mandatory helmet use. One such study was entitled Motorcyclist Deaths Spike as Helmet Laws Loosen. When one glances at the title of this report, it appears alarming and gives the impression that once a compulsory act is rescinded, anyone that hops on a motorcycle in a state that does not have the helmet law will surely perish. The finer print indicates that southern states are among those with the highest motorcycle death rates.

The smallest print, even smaller than the print in the body of the findings (approximately a size 6 font), disclosed that states with a year-round riding season are those that report higher death rates during the year. It takes the findings from a small number of states and proceeds to construe these across the entire country. Consequently, how can this study be proof that motorcycle helmet use decreases injury and death from riding? In the state of Minnesota, for example, in an exemplary year weather-wise, cycle riders have the opportunity to ride for six months out of twelve.

In a year where there is an unseasonably long winter, a short spring season and an early beginning for autumn, Minnesotans may have an entire riding season of only three months. Limitations to the majority of studies looked at the findings and drew conclusions Motorcycle Helmet Laws 6 based on the death to accident ratios alone. Very few attempted to delineate the number of months one would be riding, seasonal road conditions or other factors. The use of a causal model distinguished the research methodology of one particular study from other studies.

This methodology appealed to this writer, as many factors can influence not only the occurrence of a motorcycle crash, but the resulting predominance or lack of injury and/or death. The causal model considered crash speed, helmet use, alcohol use and other pertinent variables in an attempt to isolate the separate contribution of each determinant of the severity of injury or probability of death. The advantage of this approach was in the ability to estimate the separate effects of several simultaneous and interrelated causes of motorcycle fatalities and injury severities.

Previous studies simply divided accident victims into a helmeted group and non-helmeted group. As a result, all differences in fatality rates, injury rates and injury severities between groups were attributed to helmet use. These comparisons failed to consider other differences between helmet users and non-users which influence the probability of death and the severity of injuries. The writers hypothesis was that helmeted riders were more risk-averse and thus: (1) had lower pre-crash and thus crash speeds; and (2) were less likely to combine alcohol consumption and driving (Goldstein, 1986).

This researcher surmised that the behaviors of riders might make the difference between the probability of fatality and severity of an injury vs. the wearing of a helmet being the deciding factor. A study conducted by the University Medical Center at Brackenridge in Austin, Texas aimed to identify risk factors leading to riding and crashing a motorcycle without a helmet and to compare outcomes of helmeted vs. unhelmeted motorcyclists involved in a motorcycle crash. This retrospective study took place over a 13-year period and employed the analysis of the trauma registry at the medical center.

Data was collected regarding pre-injury characteristics such as the use of protective helmet, age, Motorcycle Helmet Laws 7 gender, ethnicity, insurance status, blood alcohol content and whether the patient was the driver or the passenger. Once more, the research conducted (above) delves into the data related to cycle crashes after the fact. And, as the majority of studies that relied on numbers and formulas concluded, unhelmeted riding was associated with more severe injuries, longer hospitalizations, increased mortality and higher hospital charges.

The conclusions of this particular report pointed to three basic factors which were a departure from typical research findings. These analysts determined that independent predictors of riding without a helmet included alcohol intoxication, lack of health insurance and riding as a passenger (Brown, 2011). Some of these conclusions make sense and might seem to be obvious. One can easily understand how alcohol consumption would be a risk factor in collisions on motorcycles, as it decreases reaction time and lends itself to disinhibition on many levels.

The subject of health insurance led to questions by the author of this paper. How does not having health insurance influence my decision regarding wearing a helmet? Final notations of the writing declare that education and prevention strategies should be targeted at these high-risk populations. It would be intriguing to determine how to locate this particular group to target for education and prevention. What ultimate goal did these researchers have in conducting this study? This student ponders that question and questions the validity of their closing statements.

Taken together, the results indicate that mandatory helmet use laws do increase the number of motorcyclists who wear helmets while riding, thus showing a decrease in serious injury and/or fatality. The threat of being ticketed along with the probability of receiving a fine appear to be the determining Motorcycle Helmet Laws 8 factors as to whether or not a rider wears a helmet. The great majority of studies conducted were quantitative in nature and focused primarily on reviewing summaries of statistics from state reports written by various law enforcement officials.

The writer of this text deemed that there may have been limitations in these particular summaries. There were several studies that appeared to employ a more qualitative methodology, however, some findings appeared to indicate the possibility of the researcher having some type of stake in the results of the evaluation, such as the project being funded by an entity that drafts insurance rates for motor vehicles. The overall impression of the qualitative results was that those that chose to delve into this issue came to the realization that many factors contribute to the incidence of injury and death caused by motorcycle collisions.

It is important to understand that the ultimate decision as to wearing a helmet while riding vs. not wearing one is the burden of the rider and not of the government.

Each rider must take into account those mitigating factors that might influence the success or failure of each ride on his or her motorcycle. Motorcycle Helmet Laws 9 References Auman, Kimberly M; Kufera, Joseph A; Ballesteros, Michael F; Smialek, John E; Dischinger, Patricia (2002). Autopsy study of motorcyclist fatalities: The Effect of the 1992 Maryland Helmet Use Law.

American Journal of Public Health 92. 8, August 2002: 1352-5. Brown, Carlos V. R. , MD, FACS; Hijl, Kelli, MSC; Bui, Eric, MD; Tips, Gaylen, RN, MSN; Coopwood, Ben, MD, FACS (2010). Risk Factors for Riding and Crashing a Motorcycle Unhelmeted. Department of Surgery, Trauma Services, University Medical Center at Brackenridge, Austin, Texas. Cotton, Paul (1992). Highway Fund Threat Is No Easy Ride For Motorcycle Law Opponents. The Journal of the American Medical Association 268. 3, July 15, 1992, p. 311. Derrick, Allison J; Faucher, Lee D.(2009).

Motorcycle Helmets and Rider Safety: A Legislative Crisis. Journal of Public Health Policy30. 2: 226-42. Eustace, Deogratias, P. E. , M. ASCE; Krishna Indupuru, Vamsi, Hovey, Peter (2011). Identification of Risk Facors Associated with Motorcycle-Related Fatalities in Ohio. Journal of Transportation Engineering/July 2011, 120-125. Goldstein, Jonathan P, PhD (2011). The Effect of Motorcycle Helmet Use on the Probability of Fatality and the Severity of Head and Neck Injuries: Highlights of Helmet Effectiveness Study.

The Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 441-446. Copyright 2011 Elsevier Inc. Motorcycle Helmet Laws 9 Houston, David J. , PhD; Richardson, Lilliard E, Jr. , PhD (November 2007). Motorcycle Safety and the Repeal of Universal Helmet Laws, American Journal of Public Health, 97. 11, 2063-9. Kraus, Jeff F. , MPH, PhD; Peek, Corinne, MPH; McArthur, David L. , PhD, MPH; Williams, Allan, PhD (1995). The Effect of the 1992 California Motorcycle Helmet Use Law on Motorcycle Crash Fatalities and Injuries.

American Journal of Public Health, January 1995, Vol. 85, No. 1, pp. 96 100. McCartt, Ann T. ; Blanar, Laura; Teoh, Eric R. ; Strouse, Laura M. (1994). Overview of Motorcycling in the United States: A National Telephone Survey, Journal of Safety Research, Vol. 42, pp. 177-184. ONeill, James MD; Scott, Charry, RRT; Kissoon, Niranjan, MD; Wludyka, Peter, PHD; Wears, Robert, MD; Luten, Robert, MD (2007). Characteristics of Motorcycle-Related Hospitalizations: Comparing States with Different Helmet Laws. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 39, Issue 1, 190-196.

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