The National Transportation Safety Board in the United States says convincing all motorcycle riders to wear helmets is the country’s most important transportation safety issue.
Helmet laws are determined by individual states, but the NTSB is asking all states to force riders to wear helmets, according to a news story in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier .
Last year, 4,400 people died in motorcycle collisions in the U.S. That’s nearly double the rate 10 years ago.
The NTSB says only 20 states require every motorcycle rider to wear a helmet, and most others have some limited form of helmet law. Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire don’t have laws covering helmet use.
Interestingly, most states required all motorcycle riders to wear helmets when such laws were required in order for the states to qualify for federal highway funding. But when that requirement was withdrawn about 15 years ago, states began easing up on their helmet laws. And riders started dying, says the NTSB.
The NTSB has no power to make the changes but can only attempt to persuade state legislators to act.
The United States suffered more highway fatalities than most other wealthy countries in 2008, but in the 1970s the U.S. had the lowest fatality rate in that group. Now, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the U.K., and other nations show lower fatality rates than the U.S.A.