The effect of motorcycle helmet laws on brain injury and fatality

Motorcycle on Road

In 1997, Texas implemented a law that made motorcycle helmets optional for motorcycle operators and passengers (age 21 or older). Past research, however, has consistently shown that wearing a protective helmet during a motorcycle accident increases survival rates and decreases the chance of brain injury and fatality.

This year, a research report from the University of Arkansas outlined the trends of helmet use and fatal injuries after the 1997 Texas Motorcycle Helmet Law was passed. Three major findings were associated with this law:

1. Once motorcycle helmet use became optional, fewer people wore helmets.
2. Subsequently, there was a significant increase in motorcycle fatalities.
3. The law had a negative overall effect on road safety.

As of 2009, only 20 states require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Only 27 states require young riders to wear a helmet. Although research has shown that a universal motorcycle helmet law would most certainly increase helmet use and decrease injury or fatality, such a law has been met with resistance by many state legislatures.

Given that motorcycle accidents can cause very severe head injuries (such as the recent case study of an un-helmeted motorcyclist who collided so violently with another un-helmeted motorcyclist's head that three of his teeth penetrated the other's brain), the case for passing a universal helmet law is solid and timely.

Bavon A & Standerfer C. The effect of the 1997 Texas motorcycle helmet law on motorcycle crash fatalities. Southern Medical Journal. (January 2010).

Houston DJ. The case for universal motorcycle helmet laws. Southern Medical Journal. (January 2010).

Singh D, Gupta V, Kataria R, et al. An unusual presentation of head injury: Teeth in brain. Turkish Neurosurgery. (January 2010).