Motorcycle Fatalities Continue to Rise; Helmet Laws May Play a Role
Springtime and its milder weather attract more motorcyclists to the roads, and more vehicles on the road means a greater chance for accidents. Unfortunately, data shows that the fatality rate for motorcycle accidents nationwide has increased for the 14th time in the last 15 years. (1)
A motorcyclist’s risk of being involved in a fatal accident is 35 times greater than someone riding in a passenger car, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA also noted that motorcycles are involved in 11% of all motor vehicle accidents in this country. (2)
Head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents, and the recent rise in fatalities has been linked to the ongoing trend by states to repeal their helmet laws.(1) NHTSA data shows that motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets face a 40% greater risk of death from head injuries than those who do wear helmets. The NHTSA’s data further shows that it is estimated that helmets cut the risk of fatalities in motorcycles crashes by 37%. (2)
Of course, other factors may contribute to the increase in motorcycle accidents and fatalities. ABATE, a motorcyclists advocacy group, has pointed to an increase in the number of motorcycles on the road for longer periods due to warmer than usual weather, untrained operators, and the risks of drinking and driving as some of those other contributing factors. Still, statistics show a sharp increase in fatalities in those states that have repealed their helmet laws. The number of states that have helmet laws decreased from 26 in 1997 to 19 today. (1) New Jersey is one of the states that still maintains its helmet laws.
According to New Jersey’s helmet law, no one may operate or ride on a motorcycle without wearing a “securely fitted” protective helmet. These helmets must have either a neck or chin strap and bear reflective material on both sides. Anyone operating a motorcycle must also wear approved goggles, glasses or face shields. (3)
Failure to wear a helmet in New Jersey is considered a non-moving violation and, as such, carries of fine of no more than $25 and no points against your license. (4) However, helmets have been found to reduce the number and severity of head injuries suffered in crashes by 50%. (5) Also, failure to wear a helmet where required may affect your chances of recovering damages from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.
Motorcycle crashes in New Jersey result in about 2,000 injuries and more than 70 deaths per year. (5) New Jersey motorcyclists are urged to obey the law in regards to wearing a helmet and to drive alertly at all times.