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.
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 The Great Lake State’s legislature introduced a bill in 2012 that partially repealed its universal helmet law for motorcycle riders.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?