Think Helmets Are Uncool? Keep Yours On
While not as big as cars, SUVs, trucks, or vans, motorcycles can play just as big a role in causing accidents and taking lives, including that of the operator. Motorcycles are particularly dangerous for the operator because he or she is left open without the protection of the carriage of a car. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent the operator from being thrown off of the cycle at often very high rates of speed. While there is really no way to completely protect yourself from any and all injuries while riding your hog, there are some ways to ensure you make it out of a potential crash alive. Most important thing you can do? Wear a helmet. The statistics are staggering. In 2012, almost 5,000 motorcyclists died on U.S. roads accounting for 15% of the total highway fatalities even though motorcycles accounted for less than 1% of all vehicle miles traveled. Since 2000, motorcycle-related deaths have increased by 55%. How important are motorcycle helmets to prevent fatalities? According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets prevent 37% of fatalities for motorcycle operators and 41% of those involving passengers. The importance of a helmet is obvious. Wearing a helmet can prevent tragedies such as the one that occurred this past Tuesday. It is much better to have a Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet absorb the impact of concrete pavement rather than your brain/skull. 19 states and the District of Columbia have a universal helmet law (all riders) in effect. Conversely, 28 states have a partial law which is based upon the age of the rider. 3 states have absolutely no law regarding helmet use and Illinois is one of them. Of the states with a universal helmet law, only 12% of fatally injured riders were not wearing a helmet. Conversely, of the 3 states with no law, 79% of fatally injured riders did not have a helmet. Of the states with only a partial law, 64% fatally injured riders were without a helmet.
A popular countrywide campaign called “Start Seeing Motorcycles” is geared toward educating drivers on the dangers posed to motorcycle riders and strives for a better awareness of these vehicles that are often “invisible” to other drivers. You can find their website here. A popular perception is that motorcycle riders are not respectful of other drivers and often drive erratically putting others in danger. However, that is an errant stereotype that could be fitting for any type of driver whether they are driving a motorcycle, car, truck, SUV, or van. Like the drivers of other vehicles, most motorcyclists are respectful of other drivers and the few bad apples cause an unfair negative light on the drivers as a whole. We live in a world of dangerous drivers. For a motorcyclist, however, the stakes are very high due to the open nature of the cycle. Helmets save lives. Moreover, the classic myths regarding helmets (i.e. they break necks, block vision, impair hearing, etc.) have consistently been dispelled. Although Illinois leaves it to the individual to choose whether to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, make sure you choose wisely. It could be the difference between life and death.