Repeal of Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Helmet Law May Have Brought Increase in Motorcycle Deaths
Approximately 15 years ago, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill to repeal its mandatory helmet law, permitting many Philadelphia motorcyclists to go without a helmet. Has this decision led to an increase in motorcycle accidents in Philadelphia and throughout the state?
At the time of the repeal, Martin Causer, a state representative from rural Pennsylvania, “gave a warning,” according to a recent report in WITF News. Causer urged Pennsylvania lawmakers not to pass the bill, contending that “people will die because of this legislation.” He urged his colleagues in the state legislature “to vote for safety.” Causer had personal experience working as an emergency medical technician, and he had witnessed the dangers of biking without helmets. However, lawmakers in the state passed the bill, and since then motorcyclists aged 21 or older with either two years of riding experience or has completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in the state have not been required by law to wear a helmet.
Looking back on motorcycle accident data, the report suggests that the repeal of the mandatory motorcycle helmet law may have had a significant influence on the rate of motorcycle fatalities in Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Between 2004 and 2016, approximately 2,600 motorcyclists died in collisions. In around 50% of those deaths, the bikers who sustained fatal injuries were not wearing helmets. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 determined that “head-injury deaths from motorcycle crashes increased by 66% after Pennsylvania repealed the helmet requirement.”
At the same time, those in favor of the repeal—and the ability for motorcyclists to decide whether or not to wear a helmet—argue that the rise in motorcycle fatalities could be due simply to the fact that there are more motorcyclists on the road. “The number of registered motorcycles increased at a higher rate than the number of motorcycle deaths.” Yet we cannot ignore the fact that around half of all motorcycle accident fatalities in the state affect bikers who are not wearing helmets. It is possible that, if those motorcyclists had been wearing helmets, they would still be alive.
Getting the Facts About Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities
How often do motorcycle accidents occur, and how often do riders suffer fatal injuries? The following facts and figures come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- Anywhere from almost 4,700 to 5,000 motorcyclists sustain fatal injuries each year in crashes;
- Tens of thousands of motorcyclists suffer serious injuries in crashes each year;
- Motorcycle fatalities account for about 15% of all recorded traffic fatalities and about 18% of all occupant fatalities;
- Motorcyclists make up around 3% of all registered vehicles in the U.S., but they account for a much higher fatality rate;
- Collision with a motor vehicle is the most common cause of motorcycle fatalities in the country (as opposed to a single-vehicle crash involving a motorcycle, or collision with a fixed object such as a tree);
- More than one-third of all deadly motorcycle accidents involve speeding; and
- Motorcycle fatalities occur almost equally on weekdays and weekends.
Be safe- always wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle! In the event that you were injured in a motorcycle accident, contact a motorcycle accident attorney to discuss your situation and learn more about your rights.