Riding a motorcycle can be a fun and exciting hobby. With gas prices at near all-time highs, it can also be a very economical way of getting around. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous. In the spring of 2006, my brother received third-degree burns on both legs when the motorcycle he was riding was hit from behind by a straight truck. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash and to this day I have no idea how he lived. He was lucky to have survived, but many others are not. To protect motorcyclists, laws should mandate all riders wear a helmet because statistics indicate that they prevent serious injury which, in turn, causes economic strain to society.
Motorcycle riders argue that the choice to wear or not to wear a motorcycle helmet is a personal one and universal helmet laws, laws which require all riders to wear a helmet, are a violation of their civil rights. In lawsuits against states with universal helmet laws, high courts were divided. Some states ruled that the universal helmet law was unconstitutional, such as in Illinois and Michigan. In other states, such as Massachusetts and Florida, the courts upheld the law (Marian and Bayer 210-211). To be sure, personal choice is something to be taken into consideration, however, concerns over personal safety and the safety of others should outweigh the personal choice in this matter.
Another argument against wearing a motorcycle helmet is that some riders insist that wearing a helmet limits vision and hearing, and endangers the rider. Nevertheless, a 1994 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study concluded just the opposite. The results of the study indicate that wearing a helmet while riding neither increases nor decreases the rider’s ability to hear. Additionally, the study states a rider can rotate their head adequately enough with a helmet on to compensate for any decrease in visual acuity. The limited impact a helmet has on a rider’s hearing or vision is not out weighted by the safety of wearing a helmet (A. J. McKnight and A. S. McKnight 15).
While each of these issues is equally important, the primary reason to wear a motorcycle helmet is for safety during a crash. The NHTSA reports that in 2011, a motorcycle rider is thirty times more likely to die in a crash than their motor vehicle occupant equivalents, per vehicle mile traveled. Additionally, the NHTSA data states that helmets are estimated to be thirty-seven percent more effective in preventing a motorcycle rider from dying in a crash (“Traffic” 2, 7). If just by wearing a helmet, a rider’s chance of death greatly decreases and a helmet has a significant effect in preventing death, it is apparent that wearing a helmet is critically important to the safety of a rider.
Helmet laws, preferably universal helmet laws, are also an important part of providing safety to riders because they encourage riders to wear a helmet. A study completed by Daniel C. Norvell and Peter Cummings found that in...