Motorcyclists are always evaluating the use of motorcycle helmets. Is this simply a matter of preference, or are there important issues to consider?
A friend of mine (Bill) has chosen to ride with a helmet or sometimes without a motorcycle helmet. He says it depends on the driving conditions for him. One day he was on a two-lane highway traveling approximately 50 mph when a tractor-trailer left the right side of the road to go in the same direction. His thought was to maintain his speed and simply pass the truck. [Which, most likely could be done.] Unfortunately, the truck driver did not have enough room to turn and came to a dead stop, crossing both lanes. Bill was now approaching the truck too fast and too close to stop safely. He tried to brake hard, but immediately knew that he was facing the side of the trailer. Thinking quickly, he pulled his Harley aside and slid under the trailer and continued down the road for about two hundred feet. Telling me his story, he was on his back, feet first, arms outstretched, head hitting the road. When it was all over, he credited God for helping him and praised his destroyed helmet for saving his life. [Plus, the leather jacket and gloves that had taken the tears in place of him.] My friend was just suffering from some sore muscles and bruised pride. But, he brings up the subject of helmet safety.
On KSL-TV News of South Jordan, the police chief (Dan Pearson) also teaches people that helmets save lives, after losing three friends in motorcycle accidents in two years. All three suffered head injuries and none were wearing motorcycle helmets. Then the police chief himself was involved in an accident on Highway 89 north of Afton, Wyoming. A truck with a horse trailer had passed him and overtaken him, striking the front of his motorcycle with the rear-mounted spare tire. Dan was thrown from his bike and landed on his head. He says, “This injury would have been a fatal blow if he hadn’t had the helmet on.” Dan suffered bruises and some broken bones.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcyclists survive a crash and receive less serious injuries when wearing a helmet. They report that at least 600 people are saved each year.
One question being asked is, “Motorcycle helmets may protect your brain, but can they increase your chances of breaking your neck?” Dr. Michael Yorgason, a surgeon at Montana Orthopedics and Sport Medicine, states that findings from the medical literature show: “Autopsy studies performed after fatal motorcycle accidents have shown that neck injuries and fractures are equally likely, whether he wears a helmet or not.” However, most medical reports support the use of motorcycle helmets. They believe that helmets generally significantly decrease the risk of head and brain injuries and assume that wearing them does not increase the risk of neck injuries.
An Italian study concluded that a helmet injury decreased by 66%. A study from Thailand found that after helmets were made mandatory, head injuries were reduced by 41% in 2 years. Now, in Kentucky, a study revealed that brain injuries increased 4.3 times when helmets were not worn.
In an article written by Jonathan P. Goldstein, PhD., titled “The Effects of Motorcycle Helmet Wear on the Likelihood of Fatality and Severity of Head and Neck Injuries.” He concludes that there are a number of variables in a study that call this into question. Large differences remain in terms of the use or not of the helmet. Normal results compare that death and injury rates are two to three times higher for bicyclists not wearing helmets and increased occurrence rates in repeal years ranging from 19% to 63%. For one thing: the helmeted versus unhelmeted study does not consider these two classes of cyclists. Claim that helmeted cyclists are naturally more cautious. First, they drive more slowly, so they have slower speeds in crash situations. Two, they are less likely to have an accident. Three, helmet wearers are less likely to drink and drive (alcohol or drug use). These behavioral changes drastically reduce the risk to passengers.
On the other hand, the factors to consider are: 1-average age of the motorcyclist 2-average miles driven each year, per motorcyclist 3-average experience of the motorcyclist 4-size of motorcycle driven. So between bike size, potential speed, age, risk taking, and alcohol intake; it simply cannot realistically test the effectiveness of helmet use.
Goldstein’s study did approach these variables in question. They reported on a study evaluating the effectiveness of motorcycle helmets in crash situations. The conclusions are: 1-Motorcycle helmets do not have a statistically significant effect on the probability of fatality. 2- Helmets reduce the severity of head injuries. 3-Beyond a critical impact speed of 13 mph, helmets increased the severity of neck injuries. The report then concluded that helmet wearers face a trade-off between reduced severity of head injuries and increased severity of neck injuries.
Under these circumstances, a mandatory helmet law cannot be reasoned as an effective method of preventing the death or injury of a person when involved in an accident.
Other options may need to be considered to provide safe motorcycle use. Here are three suggestions. One, to educate the general driving public (car and truck drivers) in the use of the roads by motorcycles. Two, educate inexperienced motorcyclists on how to avoid accidents (evasive action) and the proper use of these powerful machines. Three, create strict enforcement of drunk driving laws. [Some studies show that alcohol consumption is the major factor in deaths and injury.]
Harley-Davidson offers basic and advanced training to more than 200 dealers in 30 states. Honda has four training centers. BMW is considering advanced training but says they tend to attract experienced drivers.
Training is believed to cut through panic. You need to know how to negotiate a curve and resist the urge to brake etc.
Here are some other factors that should be considered. Tires must be inflated to the proper level. A visibility of the riders to be seen. Tests have shown that plain white motorcycle helmets are the easiest to see. Clothes make the difference between day and night.
For night driving, reflective vests and illuminated vests are available. There is GLO GLOV; reflective tape for clothing and bicycles; reflective vests and coats. Now back to the helmets.
USA Today published statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reporting that 24% of fatal crashes in 2003 involved unlicensed motorcyclists, and that automobile drivers are responsible for approximately two-thirds of fatalities. motorcycles.
US DOT findings found that after the repeal of the Helmet Law in Texas and Arkansas from August/September 1997 to May 1998, helmet use dropped to 52% in Arkansas and 66% in in Texas. In Arkansas, motorcycle deaths increased 21% after repeal and head injuries increased 18.5%. Deaths in Texas are pink 31%.
A court case in California challenged what standards were set to qualify a helmet as “safe.” For a list of the US Government’s “Motorcycle Helmet Compliance Tests,” you can check to see if your helmet passed or failed. Check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
When I’m on my motorcycle, I know what I’m doing. I don’t know what the other driver is doing. So, with the many facets of helmet use and considering the pros and cons, I choose to wear a helmet. You will have to decide for yourself!