It’s an ongoing debate in many states around the country: should motorcycle riders be able to bike without wearing a helmet?
While some believe that the rider himself should have the right to choose whether or not to take that safety precaution, others believe that not requiring helmets simply leads to more motorcycle accident deaths and more medical bills.
In Texas, the law requiring bikers to wear motorcycle helmets was repealed in 1997 – about 14 years ago. Today, motorcycle helmets are only mandatory for riders under the age of 21, riders who do not have health insurance, and riders who have not taken a motorcycle training and safety course. In addition, not wearing a motorcycle helmet is a secondary offense, and Texas police can’t pull a rider over for the sole purpose of ticketing him for a helmet violation.
Now, a new study published in the Southern Medical Journal this winter shows the effects of the new helmet law on motorcycle injuries and motorcycle fatalities in Texas. Shockingly, the study found that in the seven years after the mandatory helmet law was repealed, the rate of motorcycle accident fatalities rose by 25 percent. In addition, the Texas Department of Transportation added that in the years after the study was concluded, motorcycle deaths continued at the new and significantly higher rate.
Helmet use in Texas dropped from 77 percent when the helmet law was in place to just 36 percent after the law was repealed.
A spokesperson from the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association stated that motorcycle fatalities were down in 2009 and that it is more important to focus on motorcycle accident prevent than on helmet safety. Attempts at reinstating the motorcycle helmet law have not gone far in the Texas House.
Since the federal government stopped its policy of restricting federal funding to states that did not have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law, all but 20 states have repealed such laws.