The U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month returns this May. NHTSA explains this annual event is “a national initiative aimed at getting motorists and motorcyclists to ‘share the road’ with each other.”
Much of the focus of this awareness month centers on the importance of helmet use to prevent serious injuries and death. According to NHTSA estimates, helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists’ lives in 2008 alone. If every rider had been wearing a helmet that year, NHTSA believes 823 additional lives might have been saved.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of motorcycle injury death. Fortunately, aNHTSA publication reports that motorcycle helmets are 27 percent effective at preventing traumatic brain injury.
According to NHTSA statistics, motorcyclists are about 37 times more at risk of dying in a traffic crash per vehicle mile traveled than passenger car occupants. Motorcyclists are also 9 times more likely to be injured.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to promoting motorcycle safety, notes that a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet is an essential part of the safety equipment every rider and passenger needs. The other pieces of important motorcycle safety equipment include:
- Over-the-ankle footwear
- Long pants
- Long-sleeved jacket
- Full-fingered motorcycle gloves
The safety group also notes that past helmet myths, such as the belief that they cause neck breaks, block driver vision, and impair hearing, have been disproven. In fact, the group notes that wearing a helmet while riding actually increases rider enjoyment by cutting down on wind noise, limiting gusts to the face and eyes, and deflecting bugs and other road debris.
For more information on choosing the proper helmet, caring for it, and buying a replacement, read the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s guide, “What You Should Know About Motorcycle Helmets.”
Another NHTSA publication, “Costs of Injuries Resulting from Motorcycle Crashes: A Literature Review,” reports motorcycles’ high speeds and minimal occupant protection makes them the most hazardous highway vehicle to operate. In addition, motorcycle crashes have the highest crash cost per person mile.
The report also claims that because many motorcyclists value a high degree of independence, safety regulations have been met with strong resistance. As a result, protective equipment, most notably helmets, are not required in many states. In fact, federal laws designed to promote helmet regulations have previously been enacted and then repealed.
According to an October 2009 NHTSA report, “Motorcycle Helmet Use and Head and Facial Injuries,” in the ten-year period from 1997 to 2007 the number of motorcycle fatalities increased every year. Based on these statistics, May’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month remains an essential tool in the fight against preventable motorcycle deaths.