Helmet Laws Protect Life

Nearly every public health or medical association has shown support for universal helmet laws. I understand the arguments legislators make for freedom, but we live in a society with laws meant to protect the public. As someone who has laid a motorcycle down while riding, I can share with you a small scar on my arm and leg that still show, but I didn’t taste asphalt or even have any long term headache due to a proper DOT approved helmet with a full face shield.

Photo courtesy of Chris Yarzab via Flickr

Last week, two pieces of legislation were introduced that are meant to seem innocuous and tourism friendly. Senate Bills 153 & 154 are aimed at repealing laws that require motorcycle riders wear helmets. SB153 will permit riders in West Virignia that have held a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license to ride or be a passenger on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. SB154 permits riders from other states that permit them to ride without a helmet to do so in the Mountain State. It will be called the “Motorcycle Tourism Act of 2020”.

To understand the consequences of such legislation, one shouldn’t look much further than a state a little to our north, Michigan.  The University of Michigan Injury Center has studied the repeal of a helmet law and its consequences.  The Great Lake State’s legislature introduced a bill in 2012 that partially repealed its universal helmet law for motorcycle riders.  The stipulations were for riders over the age of 21 that carried $20,000 in medical insurance and had their motorcycle endorsement for 2 years.  Before the repeal, Michiganders’ statewide helmet use was a near perfect 99.4%.  Shortly after, it noticeably dropped to 75%.  The lowest rates of helmet use (45%) were those who were found to be intoxicated.

Motorcycle related head injuries increased following the repeal and affected 50% of crash-involved riders seeking trauma care, including a greater percentage with skull fractures. The need for neurosurgical procedures almost doubled. According to the UofM Injury Center, riding without a helmet doubled the odds of a head injury and fatality. They also studied the financial implications. Roughly 1/3 of riders involved in crashes have public insurance such as Medicaid , are self payers, or are uninsured. The cost for accident related health care for non-helmeted riders is about 35% more than those riding with a helmet. This means that taxpayers will be paying the unnecessary burden in a time when we cannot afford to pay it.

I am advising the members of the West Virignia Legislature to not support this bill.  Will you contact your legislator to tell them to keep motorcycle riders safe?

Published by Danny Scalise

Danny Franklin Scalise, II is the Executive Director and Chief Lobbyist of the West Virginia State Medical Association and its subsidiary organizations as well as a professor of Health Policy at the West Virginia University School of Public Health. He is considered one of the leading health policy experts in West Virginia and is a passionate advocate for public health. Scalise has been a public policy adviser to two Governors. He is well known across West Virginia as a problem solver and a great student of West Virginia politics & the legislative process. As part of the Manchin administration, Danny was the Recovery Czar in West Virginia managing $1.8 billion in grants and entitlement funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
 Danny earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from West Virginia University Institute of Technology in 2002, his Master of Business Administration from West Virginia University in 2005, and his Master of Public Health degree in Health Policy in 2018. In 2016 he became Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners. He has been published on and regularly speaks on issues of public health, health policy, and local health department governance & organizational structure. Danny sits on the Board of Directors for the Thomas Health System in South Charleston, WV and in 2019 Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin appointed him to serve on the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health which governs the largest and first PHAB Accredited Health Department in West Virginia. 
 Danny has been recognized by Opportunity Nation in 2013 as part of their national Opportunity Leaders & Scholars program and was awarded the “Health Administration Rising Star” by the American Public Health Association in 2016. He is a 2012 Leadership West Virginia graduate, was on the State Journal’s 2016 Generation Next: 40 under 40 list, was named a 2019 Young Gun by West Virginia Executive Magazine, and was given the 2019 Advocacy Award by the West Virginia Immunization Network for his work to protect West Virginia’s childhood immunization laws. Since joining in 2007, Danny has been an active participant in Mensa.

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