Earlier this month, we wrote a blog post about the decline of motorcycle accident fatalities in Pennsylvania last year. While that is certainly a positive development for motorcyclists in Pittsburgh and throughout the state, it is not reflective of national statistics, which are currently reporting a significant increase in motorcycle crash deaths in the last 10 years.
Specifically, Pennsylvania motorcycle accident deaths declined by 13 percent from 2010 to 2011 (you can read more about the fatality rate in our previous motor vehicle accidents blog post). Nationally, however, motorcycle deaths have continually increased over the past decade, going from about 3,200 in 2002 to 4,500 in 2010.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, motorcycle helmet laws have also become more lax in recent years. In the 1970s, nearly all 50 states required all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Today, just 19 states have a universal helmet law. Others, including Pennsylvania, only require young riders to wear helmets.
Therefore, it seems highly possible that the declining severity of helmet laws has coincided with the increase in motorcycle accident deaths. In fact, a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that five times as many motorcyclists who are not wearing helmets die in accidents, as compared to helmeted riders.
If that is the case, why aren't more states requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets?
In a statement, the American Motorcycle Association said that helmet mandates often have negative effects. "Historically, the enforcement of helmet mandates has siphoned away scarce funds from effective crash prevention programs such as rider education and motorist awareness," the organization said. Personal liberty considerations have also played into states' decisions to reduce or eliminate helmet requirements.
What do you think? Should Pennsylvania institute a universal helmet mandate?
Source: PBS NewsHour, "Why Rise in Motorcycle Deaths Hasn't Meant Tougher Helmet Laws," June 19, 2012