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Pros And Cons Of Motorcycle Helmet Laws

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Motorcycle helmet laws are a controversial subject, one that even spurs protests from motorcyclists themselves. Some argue that wearing a helmet should be a matter of choice, while others claim that not requiring a helmet leads to more injuries, more death, and a higher burden on taxpayers. The issue affects everyone, whether you're a motorcyclist or the driver of a car sharing the road with motorcycles. What are the facts behind each group's position? Take a look at the pros and cons of laws that regulate the usage of helmets for motorcyclists, and draw your own conclusions.

Pro: Helmets Save Lives and Money

To understand why advocates for helmet laws argue for requiring helmets, it's helpful to look at what's happened in states that have repealed their helmet laws. Florida is often pointed to as an example.Florida's helmet law was repealed in 2000. The new laws state that an adult motorcyclist with at least $10,000 worth of personal injury coverage doesn't have to wear a helmet.

At the time of repeal, the state was averaging less than 200 motorcycle deaths per year, despite the fact that Florida is a vacation hot spot for bikers due to its Bike Week events in the spring and Biketoberfest events in the fall. In the year after the state repealed its helmet law, the death toll climbed up to nearly 250. Five years later, it had more than doubled again, reaching a previously unheard of 550 motorcycle deaths in the year 2006.

The numbers began to fall after the state enacted a motorcycle training requirement for new drivers, but they never reached their lows from the era before the helmet law repeal, and they've since begun to climb again. To those who support mandatory helmet laws, all of those numbers speak for themselves. A lack of helmet laws is associated with more deaths and more injuries.

It also results in higher healthcare costs. The extra $10,000 in personal injury insurance coverage that motorcyclists are asked to carry isn't enough – a mild head injury can cost as much as $85,000 to care for, and a severe head injury can cost up to $3 million. If an injured motorcyclists health and vehicle insurance doesn't cover the cost and the motorcyclist can't afford it, then the taxpayers end up picking up the bill once the insurance runs out.

Con: Helmets Can't Prevent Accidents

In a response to a federal task force recommendation in favor of a national helmet law, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) issued a bulletin opposing any such recommendation. While the AMA encourages riders to wear helmets, their position is that helmets do nothing to stop accidents from occurring, and that any government regulation should focus on rider training, motorist awareness, and rigorous licensing requirements.

Helmets serve only as damage control after an accident occurs, for only one part of the body. Increased awareness and rider education could help prevent all injuries, not just head injuries, by reducing the number of crashes. More to the point, it could do so without impacting motorcyclists' personal freedom to decide whether or not they will wear helmets. The AMA, as well as many individual bikers, believe strongly that adult riders should have the freedom to ride with or without a helmet.

The AMA statement also claims that bikers are less likely to rely on public funding for their healthcare needs than the general public, and are no more likely than other vehicle operators to lack insurance. Furthermore, they point out that vehicle crash injuries account for only a small amount of the money spent on healthcare in the U.S. – less than 2% in 2000 – and that motorcycle-related injuries are only a small portion of that number.

Whether you're in favor of motorcycle helmet laws or opposed to them, it's important to follow the laws that apply in the state that you're riding in. Failure to do so can make it more difficult for you to receive compensation after an accident, even if the accident was not your fault. For more information about what to do following a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in your area.