By Chuck Mai, AAA
You gotta envy those motorcyclists tooling down the highway – wind in their hair, the open road unfolding in front of them, a quick and powerful engine between their legs – ah, that’s the life. Well, on second thought, scratch that part about the wind in the hair. I’m too fond of living to go without a helmet. It’s not a law in Oklahoma that you have to wear a helmet, except for those under age 18, but it makes sense.
Seventy-two motorcyclists lost their lives in crashes in Oklahoma during the first nine months of 2011 – up from 62 during that same time in 2010. Thirty-five percent of those 72 had been drinking.
Motorcycle helmet opponents will tell you helmets limit riders’ vision and hearing but the simple fact is that helmets saved the lives of 1,550 motorcyclists across the U.S. in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 706 lives could have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 37-percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
According to NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey, a nationally representative observational survey of motorcycle helmet, seat belt, and child safety seat use, use of DOT-compliant helmets in 2010 stood at 54 percent, a decrease from 67 percent in 2009. That’s not a good trend.
Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico require helmet use by all motorcyclists, while 28 states only require helmet use by a subset of motorcyclists (typically motorcyclists under age 18, like Oklahoma) and 3 states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) do not require helmet use by motorcyclists of any age. If you’re about to travel out of Oklahoma, you should know that among nearby states, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Louisiana all have helmets laws for riders of all ages.
Here’s one more set of stats: Sixty-six percent of motorcyclists killed in 2010 were not wearing helmets in states without all-age helmet laws, as compared to ten percent in states with such laws.
Feel like rolling the dice? Go helmet-less. The odds aren’t with you but maybe you’ll get lucky.