When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger whacked his unprotected head into a car and then the pavement in a June 2006 motorcycle crash, he became a dented figurehead for the value of a helmet law in Pennsylvania.
Roethlisberger survived the impacts, but a study released this week by the University of Pittsburgh shows that many other riders were less fortunate, and still the law allows riders to go helmetless if they’re over 21 and have more than two years of driving experience.
A study of data from a two year period surrounding the 2003 repeal of the state’s universal helmet law showed that motorcycle crash deaths rose 32 per cent and head injury hospitalizations rose 42 per cent in the 12 months after riding without a helmet became legal.
Study author Dr. Kristen Mertz said helmets only reduce the risk of death by about 37 per cent, “so they’re not perfect.” But one-third of motorcycle crash deaths could be prevented with helmets, she said. Her study was printed in the American Journal of Public Health.
A state representative has introduced legislation to reinstate a universal motorcyclist helmet law for Pennsylvania, partly because the cost of treating serious head injuries is huge. He told WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh that helmets are “a low-tech answer to saving money in the health care system."