Centers for Disease Control Weigh in on Helmet Use: Brain Buckets Save Lives and Money

If it wasn’t already obvious to most people out there, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has weighed in with their recommendation for helmet use by motorcycle riders. With a number of states still allowing bikers to travel unprotected by a certified motorcycle helmet, and with several states having repealed helmet laws requiring riders to wear so-called “Brain Buckets,” the CDC’s announcement that helmets save lives AND money would seem to call into question the wisdom behind legislation in those non-use states.

As Baltimore automobile accident lawyers, my firm handles cases ranging from pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle injury accidents to car and commercial trucking collisions. One thing that we know, having seen our share of severe traffic accidents, is that unprotected individuals fare much worse on average than those who have some kind of protection.

According to study out of Washington, D.C., the CDC deduced that states which require riders and passengers of two-wheeled motor vehicles wear a helmet at all times on public roads had, in the words of the article, “dramatically lower” costs vis-à-vis biker-related accidents. In other words, it was found that those states with better, more all-encompassing helmet laws experienced lower monetary costs when it came to riders/passengers hurt or killed in bike crashes.

The CDC document that brought all this to the fore was issued in early June this year and utilized statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) database, namely the agency’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). For those uninitiated, the FARS database includes nationwide traffic fatality information for every kind of vehicle. The CDC also used NHTSA data to determine the monetary savings that could be ascribed to the active use of motorcycle helmets, and sorted that information based on the types of helmet laws in effect in each state during the inclusive period of 2008 to 2010.

In its calculations, the CDC’s report estimated cost savings in terms of medical and emergency services, lose-of-work productivity impacts (on the job AND at home), plus insurance administration and legal costs arising out of a motorcycle-related traffic accidents, both injury-related and fatal crashes.

Based on news articles, the report stated more than 14,000 motorcyclists were killed in the four-year period beginning in 2008. Out of that number, 42 percent of the individuals killed were not wearing a helmet. It’s instructive to note that 4,502 riders and their passengers were killed in 2010, a figure that reportedly represents 14 percent of all traffic-related fatalities across the United States. Keep in mind, however, that while 14 percent of roadway deaths were from motorcycle crashes, bikes represent a scant one percent (actually less) of the vehicles on U.S. roads.

Additional findings showed that in states with no helmet laws, almost 80 percent of fatal injuries to motorcyclists occurred to those who were not wearing a helmet at the time of the wreck. Compare this to those states with “partial” helmet laws (64 percent killed), then compare those figures to states with universal helmet laws (just 12 percent killed as a result of a bike crash).

There’s more to this story, mainly the dollar cost to society as a whole. Read into the report and one can begin to see the possible folly of those states that allow there bikers to travel without protection. For example, according to the CDC, in those states that have a so-called universal helmet law, the public actually saved more than $700 for each registered motorcycle. Compare that to the savings in states with no helmet law, in which instances of helmet use saved barely $200 per registered bike.

CDC: Helmet laws save lives, money;, June 15, 2012

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