Helmets for all, NTSB pleads


Because head trauma is no joke.

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 But when that requirement was withdrawn about 15 years ago, states began easing up on their helmet laws.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.


  1. I’m all for personal choice. However if you choose to not use protective gear it should be reflected in your insurance premium just as rider training is. For me this is a “no brainer”. My helmet has saved my life in two occasions, both times involving vehicles running into me at sub 60 kph speeds. Oh, and that was on my bicycle.

  2. I don’t agree, I think the bicycle helmet reference has merrit. Here in Alberta it is manditory for anyone under the age of 16 to wear a helmet, after that you are considered aware enough to make your own decision. If you are going to make the decision to not wear a motorcycle helmet, the same should apply. I don’t think the government should have to protect us from ourselves. The insurance company should have an “out” though, like if you drink and drive…no coverage…still have public liability, but no personal insurance…you made the choice to take the risk…you pay the bill. :eek

  3. I wouldn’t disagree that it should be your choice.

    However, in a province funded health care, it’s much harder to be OK with than someplace like US, where you pay for your own health insurance … if you don’t pay they look after you in emergency (hopefully), but you end up with a hefty bill assuming you survived the crash.

    BTW, the analogy with a runner or bicycle rider is not very good. Paramount difference in speed and many other things ….

  4. We’ll put RyYYZ. When I lived in Ontario there was once a proposed law to force everyone, regardless of age, to wear bicycle helmets(thankfully it didn’t pass). I ride my bicycle generally at a pace equivelant to someone who’s running, usually to go to the corner ice cream shop etc. Should people who run wear helmets? The point is government intervention on personal freedoms, in this case the right to decide what is safe for me,are invasive and should be protested. If your actions are not going to directly hurt somebody, they should remain your choice. If the logic behind helmet laws were to be applied everywhere then smoking should be illegal.

  5. Generally speaking, an unhelmeted rider isn’t directly hurting anyone other than themselves. I don’t need or want the government to protect me from myself, a philosophy I would hope that all of us who choose such a risky (compared to a cage) mode of transport would appreciate.

    Which isn’t to say that I think riding without a helmet is generally a very smart thing to do, but I can think of a time or two where I might have chosen to go without if it was legal.

    Believing in freedom means supporting other people right to make choices that you may not agree with or think unwise, so long as it doesn’t (reasonably directly) hurt you. You start talking about “cost to society” and such and theres no end of what government interference in our lives can be justified.

  6. Maybe, but it’s only one small step from there to “If you want to ride a motorcycle, your driver’s licence should state “Organ Donor DNR.”

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