There is no more hotly debated a topic when it comes to motorcycles and motorcycles safety than helmets. Helmet use, and in particular Texas motorcycle helmet law, draw an extreme reaction from both sides of the debate, with some riders claiming that it is their right and freedom to ride unhelmeted, and other riders acknowledging the safety benefits and vehemently supporting mandatory helmet use as a life-saving strategy. Surprisingly in many instances non-riders are almost as vociferous on the topic as riders with some lobbyists clamoring for money and life saving laws that would require helmet use, and other non-riders decrying such efforts as an infringement on personal liberties. To help sort through the mass of information lets take a look at some motorcycle helmet, safety, and crash stats, and then take a look at the old and new laws as they relate to Texas motorcycle helmet laws.
STATISTICS ON MOTORCYCLE CRASHES AND HELMET USE
Results may vary based on the time period measured, the methodology used, and the organization conducting the studies. However, research indicates that:
Injury and Death Rates:
- The rate for serious injuries involving motorcycles is about 16 times that of automobiles and about twice the rate of bicycles.
- About 80% of motorcycle crashes resulted in either injury death. For automobiles that figure was about 20%.
- When measuring only fatalities, motorcycle riders suffered a death rate of nearly 30 times that of other vehicle drivers.
- Motorcycle crashes resulted in the death of over 4,500 people in 2010 alone.
- Since the year 2000 there has been a 55% increase in motorcycle-related deaths.
Efficacy of Helmet Use:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated in 2003 that helmets are about 37% effective in preventing fatalities for motorcycle drivers.
- For motorcycle passengers the efficacy rate of helmets preventing fatalities climbs to 41%.
- These numbers translate to 1,158 lives saved by helmets in 2003, the year this data was gathered.
- Had all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes been wearing helmets in 2003 at the time of the accidents it is estimated that an additional 640 lives would have been saved.
- Helmets also reduce the risk of nonfatal head injuries by 69%.
The Rate of Helmet Use:
- In 2000 the rate of Helmet Use was about 71% nationally.
- By 2002 the rate had dropped to 58% nationally.
- Data from 2008-2010 indicates that for states that had a universal helmet law, only 12% of motorcyclists didn’t wear helmets.
- By contrast during the same 2008-2010 study it was determined that 64% of riders in states with partial helmet laws didn’t wear helmets.
- The 2008-2010 study revealed that for states with no helmet laws 79% of riders did not wear helmets.
HOW DO MOTORCYCLE HELMET LAWS STACK UP NATIONWIDE?
You probably noticed in the above stats that universal motorcycle helmet laws were mentioned, as were partial motorcycle helmet laws, and no helmet laws. So just what are these exactly? The first thing to understand is that helmet laws vary from state to state. For states with universal helmet laws, this means that all motorcycle riders must wear helmets. For states with partial helmet laws, riders under a certain age, such as 21 or 18, may be required to use helmets, but older riders are not. For states with no helmet laws it is completely up to the discretion of the driver, regardless of age.
WHAT IS THE MOTORCYCLE HELMET LAW IN TEXAS?
Texas holds an interesting position among the states in terms of motorcycle helmet laws because the law has changed over time. Prior to September 1st, 1997, all Texas motorcycle riders were required to ride with a helmet. However, as of September 1st, 1997 the law changed, now requiring helmet use for only riders who are under 21.
HOW HAS THE TEXAS HELMET LAW CHANGE AFFECTED SAFETY?
In the first full year after the helmet law was lessened in Texas there was a 31% climb in the motorcycle related death rate. In addition to the lives saved, it is estimated that as a partial law state Texas saves about $21 million in economic costs. However, with a universal law in place that figure would be estimated at $73 million in savings.
The bottom line is that motorcycle helmet laws in Texas are good for the state's economy as well as the safety and well being of Texas citizens. In lieu of stronger laws that would require universal helmet usage, it is up to each motorcycle rider to make the safe and responsible decision to wear a helmet. It may seem like a small infringement on personal freedom, but ultimately it will allow the rider the freedom to ride longer and safer and to avoid becoming another motorcycle accident statistic.