Motorcyclist helmet rules vary from state to state. In some states, like Mississippi, it is compulsory to wear a helmet if you ride a motorcycle. 18 other states, as well as D.C., have the same or similar rules, leaving the rest with basically no helmet rules at all.
If there are any compulsory helmet rules they are aimed at younger riders. So who’s right? Do state mandated helmet laws actually make it safer for motorcyclists, or is it simply an imposition on riders’ freedom to take a risk?
Statistics show helmet wearing is inherently safer
It’s not easy dissecting the statistics on motorcycle accidents and coming out with a conclusion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps statistics on traffic accidents of all types and there is no doubt that riding on a motorcycle is inherently less safe than driving or being driven in an enclosed motor vehicle. NHTSA data shows that the number of motorcycle accident fatalities has spiked over the last few years, but the data doesn’t necessarily indicate that this is because riders are wearing helmets less. It may be because there are more people out riding motorcycles.
The Advocates for Highway Safety (AHS), which campaigns for safer roads, including campaigning for helmet rules to be strengthened claims that in states like Texas that do not have helmet rules, riders that do not wear helmets have higher fatality rates than those that do. The U.S. wide figure is a 59% fatality rate for unhelmeted riders compared to 49% for helmeted riders. The rate by comparison for states that do have helmet laws like Mississippi is 8% for unhelmeted riders.
The AHS claims that the existence of motorcycle laws mean a saving nationwide in health bills of $17 billion. They claim further that if all states had helmet laws, the saving could be as high as $25 billion.
Helmets are not foolproof
Mississippi’s helmet laws make clear that just wearing a helmet isn’t a guarantee that you won’t have serious head injuries if you wear a helmet. The laws say that the type of helmet is important, too. Riders in this state must wear a helmet that has been approved by the American Associated of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
Wearing a helmet may be partially effective, but it only protects the head. Riders can wear protective clothing, but the reality is that a serious accident can throw the rider off the machine and this can lead to several parts of the body and internal organs being injured Head injuries are still relatively common in a motorcycle accident and it has been reported that good, all round helmets are 35 – 40% effective in preventing a fatality and 65 – 70 % effective in preventing serious brain injuries. Helmets therefore do help to prevent serious injuries and fatalities if you are hit by another driver, but are certainly not foolproof.
Motorcycle helmet rules and personal injury claims
If you are riding a motorcycle and are hit by a vehicle and are injured, you are entitled to seek compensation by filing a personal injury claim against the driver if you think you can prove that the driver was negligent. This is not always easy if you have had a bad accident and are taken to hospital before you are able to talk to witnesses or take note of the circumstances. You may have to depend on the police report that will be made after an on-site investigation. Successful personal injury claims depend on proof that negligence was involved, i.e. the driver who hit you was driving too fast, did not see you (indicating distracted driving), passed too close or was drunk.
But what happens if you are riding a motorcycle on a highway in Mississippi and were not wearing a helmet at the time? Technically, you were breaking the law and could be fined, but does it affect your ability to claim compensation? You would have to discuss this possibility with a properly qualified attorney with motorcycle accident claim experience like the Diaz Law Firm in Jackson, MS. As long as the other driver, the one that hit you, was driving in a negligent way and this was what caused the accident, you should still have the right to sue him or her. However, the fact that you were not wearing a helmet may make a difference to the amount of compensation awarded, especially if the injuries you are claiming for were to the face or head, i.e. they may have been lessened if you were wearing a helmet. Ring 601-607-3456 to arrange a free consultation with a Diaz Law Firm personal injury attorney.