Trauma surgeons' opinions on motorcycle helmet use and traumatic brain injury

Ample evidence suggests that helmet use significantly decreases motorcycle-related death and disability. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets are about 40% effective in preventing fatal injuries. However, only 19 states have mandatory helmet laws, and deaths caused by motorcycles have increased 55% since 2000. Further research on motorcycle accidents is necessary to support additional legislative requirements for helmet use, which would significantly decrease the morbidity and mortality rates associated with motorcycle accidents, which currently stands at 80% (compared to 20% for car accidents).

Recently, members of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST) were asked to share their expertise by participating in a survey about motorcycle injuries and costs. Of the 127 survey respondents,

  • 93% agreed that helmets decrease the severity of head injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes, and 98% said that helmets improve long-term health outcomes;
  • 84% believe that all states should legally mandate motorcycle helmet use;
  • 83% reported that universal helmet use would lead to a major reduction in health care costs associated with motorcycle accidents; and
  • 100% who rode motorcycles reported using a helmet, compared to 54% of U.S. motorcycle riders.

Most experts in traumatic brain injury agree that helmets significantly decrease the risks associated with motorcycle use, and many believe that helmet use should be a legal requirement in all areas of the United States. A majority also believe that universal helmet use would cause a significant decrease in motorcycle-related health care costs, reducing the currently $12 billion per year economic burden associated with motorcycle injuries and deaths. Policies mandating helmet use for motorcycle riders could significantly decrease crash-related morbidity and mortality, benefitting individual riders and the public alike.

Hoffman LJ, Babbitt-Jonas R, Khoury L, et al. Fact and fiction regarding motorcycle helmet use, associated injuries, and related costs in the United States. Cureus Journal of Medical Science. (November 2018).

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