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Motorcycle Helmets May Reduce Injuries

It was recently reported by the Texas Department of Public Safety that a motorcycle accident north of San Antonio claimed the life of the motorcycle driver. It was also reported that the motorcycle driver was not wearing a helmet. Most safety experts agree that wearing a motorcycle helmet decreases the likelihood of a cycle crash fatality by approximately 35 to 40 percent.

Adult motorcycle riders in Texas are not required to wear helmets. A large percentage of motorcycle riders in Texas prefer to go helmet-less because of the freedom and perceived improvement in field of view. Opponents of mandatory state helmet laws have argued that helmets negatively effect their ability to visually detect vehicles in other lanes and that the helmets also reduce their ability to hear auditory signals such as horns and the sound of nearby traffic. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tend to dispute the claim that helmets negatively impact safety because of a perceived reduction in vision or hearing; however, a helmet may reduce vision when changing lanes. These factors do not override the safety effect that protecting the rider’s head promotes. Motorcycle operators may need to exercise caution when changing lanes, but that conduct rests on all drivers. Not addressed in the studies of injuries is how many of the accidents were caused by reckless drivers not being on the lookout for motorcycle drivers. Motorcycle drivers in Texas often complain about aggressive automobile drivers and drivers of cars and trucks often cause injury to motorcycle riders and passengers as a result of not keeping close attention to all users of the streets and highways.

It should be noted, however, that various helmet styles and varying manufacturers have differing safety profiles. All motorcycle helmets are required to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, which is the minimum level of protection. Some helmets provide more protection and no helmet should provide less than the standard. In a motorcycle accident involving serious head trauma to a helmeted operator or passenger it may be necessary to investigate the safety profile of the helmet that was being used.