How Effective Are Motorcycle Helmets?

Published on: 02/05/21 — In  -

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Riding a motorcycle is a unique experience because when you’re on a motorcycle you’re entirely immersed in nature--the open road, and the fresh wind in your face. The speed, the adrenaline, you smell and feel everything when you’re on a motorcycle.

Riding a motorcycle is a combination of both physical and emotional pleasure, and thus it’s addictive. However, to enjoy this hobby for many years and to make the most of it, always wear a helmet to protect your head when you’re riding. Let's hear what the Ktenas Injury Lawyers team has to say about 'How effective are motorcycle helmets?'

Chicago motorcycle accident lawyer Chris Ktenas

A helmet is without a doubt the most essential riding gear you should have. Because severe head injuries are the most common injuries among motorcyclists. The harsh reality is that head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that motorcycles are more likely to be in an accident than motor vehicles. During a motorcycle accident, the motorcycle operator lacks the protection of an enclosed vehicle. Thus, he or she is more likely to suffer severe injuries or even die.

How Effective are Helmets in Preventing Motorcyclist Death?

  • Wearing the right type of helmet saves lives and reduces concussions and other head injuries.
  • Nationally, 1,772 motorcyclists were saved by wearing their helmets in 2015.
  • Motorcycle helmets are approximately 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries among motorcyclists and 42% effective for passengers.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 1984 through 2003, motorcycle helmets saved the lives of 14,922 motorcyclists. During that period, if all motorcycle riders and passengers wore helmets 10,148 more lives would have been saved.
  • Data show helmets are effective in preventing motorcycle deaths by about 37% and they’re 67% effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries.
  • The CDC reports that motorcycle helmets saved 1,859 lives in 2016. If all motorcyclists would have worn their helmets, 802 more lives would have been saved in 2016.

What Percentage of Motorcycle Riders Get in Accidents?

Motorcycles continue to make up a significant portion of U.S. road accidents. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NHTSA’s NCSA) shows that 5,286 motorcyclists died in 2016. Further, in 2016, motorcycle crashes occurred 28 times more frequently than car accidents when accounting for vehicle miles traveled.

According to the NHTSA, 4,668 motorcyclists were killed in car accidents, which was a decline of 6% from the 4,986 motorcyclists who were killed in 2012. In 2013, approximately 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle traffic accidents, this was a 5% decrease from 93,000 motorcycle injuries in 2012.

4,985 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle traffic accidents in 2018. Most motorcyclists fatalities in 2018 occurred:

  • During good weather (88%),
  • On urban roads (61%),
  • When wearing a helmet (60%),
  • In collisions involving two vehicles(54%),
  • During daylight(52%).

Naturally, motorcycles are less crash-worthy than enclosed vehicles. Also, they’re less visible to other drivers and pedestrians and less stable than four-wheel motor vehicles. Thus, riding a motorcycle requires a different combination of both mental and physical skills than driving vehicles.

person holding a motorcycle helmet, How Effective Are Motorcycle Helmets

Why Do Motorcyclists Not Wear Helmets?

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle helmets are the most essential safety equipment a motorcyclist can wear. Based on research, helmets give a motorcyclist a 35% chance to survive a fatal motorcycle accident, a 26% chance to avoid severe injuries that require emergency care, and a 10% chance to avoid any injuries at all.

However, if helmets are so effective and essential, then why do so many motorcycle riders still not wear them in many circumstances? Whenever you hit the roads of Illinois, you’ll probably see a few motorcyclists without a helmet. Why are they choosing to ignore life-saving safety equipment? The answer is more in-depth than a simple yes or no.

Reasons Motorcyclists Might Not Wear a Helmet When Riding

  1. Motorcycle Helmet law. Illinois is one of the three states in the US that don’t have official law enforcing helmet use. This means Illinois helmet laws don’t exist. Since not wearing a motorcycle helmet is completely lawful in Illinois, most riders choose to go without it. However, a court of law may find a motorcyclist negligent for not wearing a helmet during a traffic crash. Even though the accident isn’t your fault, you might share part of the responsibility for your own injuries because you weren’t wearing a helmet. Although Illinois doesn’t have motorcycle helmet laws, there’s an eye protection law that requires both drivers and passengers to wear glasses, goggles, or a transparent windshield.
  2. Improved eyesight and hearing. Some motorcyclists feel the average helmet obscures their vision because of the visor or the sides of the helmet. Others find it hard to hear vehicles in the adjacent lanes or approaching emergency cars with a motorcycle helmet on. Thus, they believe that by not wearing a helmet they may experience improved eyesight and hearing, which helps them avoid traffic accidents.
  3. Comfort. Other motorcyclists don’t wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle because they say it’s uncomfortable. A good helmet should fit snugly to the head. Even the NHTSA points out that a correctly sized helmet may be a little tight and cause pressure around the head. For some motorcyclists, this pressure is distracting and even painful, so they choose to forgo the helmet and focus on being comfortable while riding, which makes them more alert to hazards.

At Ktenas Injury Lawyers, many of our motorcycle accident lawyers are also avid motorcyclists. We have served many motorcyclists who have sustained severe injuries that could have been prevented or lessened if they had worn a helmet. As personal injury attorneys, riders, and people who care about your well-being and health, we encourage you to always wear a helmet whenever you’re riding, even though you’re taking a quick trip to a friend’s house or the grocery store.

What Percentage of Motorcyclists Wear Helmets?

Universal helmet laws are state laws that require all motorcycle riders, including operators and passengers, to wear helmets. Helmet laws are extremely effective.

99% of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws wore helmets in 2019. In states with no universal helmet laws, 71% of motorcyclists wore their helmets. In states with universal helmet laws, 89% of motorcyclists complied with federal safety regulations, while 56% of motorcyclists complied in states without such laws.

Today, in the United States, 18 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws, 29 states have laws covering some riders, especially those younger than 18, and three states, including Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire don’t have any helmet requirements.

couple wearing motorcycle helmets, How Effective Are Motorcycle Helmets

Why are Painted Lines Dangerous to Motorcyclists When It Rains?

Whether you get caught in the rain unexpectedly, there are a few things you should remember and watch out for. Obviously, you need to follow common-sense rules when you’re on a wet road; slow down, leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you, allow yourself more time to stop, and make turns slowly.

Painted lines, such as crosswalks, can be slippery and dangerous for motorcyclists, especially if you’re turning or crossing the lines at an angle. So, slow down more than usual and maintain a constant speed--accelerating or slowing can cause the rear tire to break loose.

Lane dividers can be unsafe in wet conditions. The biggest problem is when you’re changing lanes to pass someone. Speeding up when crossing lane dividers can cause the rear tire to break loose. Therefore, cross lane dividers at a constant speed and then speed up once you’re in a new lane.

Diamonds in the HOV lanes can be dangerous when you lean into one. The diamond shape allows you to slide across it and continue to slide along it. However, you shouldn’t ride in the center of the lane, especially when it’s raining. Any painted line or surface is dangerous, and until the DOT addresses this issue and comes up with a less slippery texture, you should be careful when crossing painted lines during rains because they’re very slippery.

Contact a Chicago Motorcycle Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident because of another person's negligence, you deserve compensation for your injuries and losses. To get the maximum compensation you deserve, you’ll need the help of an experienced legal team.

A Chicago motorcycle accident attorney from the Ktenas Injury Laweyrcan help you navigate through the entire process and fight fiercely to make sure you get the best outcome. To schedule a free initial consultation, call one of our local auto accident lawyers today at (312) 300-2515 or chat with us online to learn how we can help.