The Washington Post

CDC: Helmet laws save lives, money

In states that require all motorcycle riders — including drivers and passengers of all ages — to wear helmets, costs related to motorcycle accidents are dramatically lower than in states with less comprehensive helmet laws or no such laws at all. That’s the upshot of a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report analyzed data for 2008 to 2010 from the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which tallies fatal traffic crashes (involving all kinds of vehicles) in the United States. It also looked at NHTSA data to determine the monetary savings attributed to helmet use, sorting that data according to the kinds of helmet laws in place in each state.

The report estimated cost savings related to medical and emergency services, lost productivity at work and at home and insurance administration and legal costs stemming from motorcycle crash-related injuries and deaths.

According to the report, 14,283 motorcyclists were killed in crashes during the period from 2008 to 2010; of those, 6,057 (42 percent) were not wearing a helmet. And in 2010, 4,502 drivers and passengers were killed in motorcycle crashes. That represents 14 percent of all road-traffic deaths that year, the report notes, even though motorcycles accounted for less than 1 percent of vehicle miles traveled.

Among the key findings:

●On average, in states with no helmet laws, 79 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing helmets when their accident occurred. That’s compared to 64 percent in states with partial helmet laws (those in which only some riders, typically those under age 21, are required to wear helmets) and just 12 percent in states with universal helmet laws.

●In states with universal helmet laws, society saved an estimated $725 per registered motorcycle as a result of helmet use. In states with no helmet laws, helmet use saved society just $198 per registered motorcycle.

●Overall, about $3 billion in costs were saved as a result of helmet use in the United States in 2010. But, the report says, “another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.”

An editorial note accompanying the report explains that state motorcycle helmet laws have come and gone over the past 40 years, largely in keeping with changes in federal laws imposing penalties on states without such laws. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia all currently require motorcycle drivers and riders of all ages to wear helmets.


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