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Motorcycle fatality rates drop precipitously with helmet use

What is your opinion about motorcycle helmets? Are they bulky and uncomfortable -- or necessary for personal safety? As a motorcyclist, you might not believe that only 19 states and the District of Columbia currently have universal helmet laws for all motorcycle riders. A total of 28 states have laws on the books to protect certain riders, including those under the age of 18. The history of helmet laws has been fraught with dramatic twists, causing additional consequences for civil liability and motorcycle accident victims.

In the late 1960s, the federal government launched a program designed to encourage all states to adopt mandatory helmet laws. By 1975, only three states had failed to implement universal helmet requirements. The federal government ultimately weakened the requirements, however, because of state pushback. This led to several decades of controversy and concluded with the elimination of federal helmet mandates in the mid-1990s. Now, states including Connecticut are able to set their own rules about helmet use.

Do helmets really make that much of a difference? The research points to "yes." Fewer crash victims suffer brain injury because of a negligent party if the motorcyclist is wearing a helmet. Further, states with universal helmet laws enjoy lower fatal motorcycle crash rates, often reducing fatalities by an order of 25 percent or more.

Federal courts have continued to uphold the constitutionality of motorcycle helmet laws, with a seminal case that was decided in 1972. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that the state has a vested interest in maintaining public welfare by requiring helmet use, and that such statutes do not infringe on the liberties of motorcycle riders. This is largely because of the public health impact associated with failure to wear helmets.

Even if the motorcyclist is not at fault, he or she could suffer broken bones or permanent disability because of a distracted driver. Those at-fault drivers should be held responsible for medical costs and other expenses associated with a motorcycle collision. However, motorcycle riders can take additional precautions to protect their personal health and welfare by choosing to comply with Connecticut helmet laws. It is important to remember that such compliance could affect the outcome of your personal injury case.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Motorcycles: Helmets and antilock brakes make riding less dangerous.," accessed July 07, 2015

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