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Helmet Laws: Good or Bad?: That is the Question

Should you have to wear a helmet at all times when riding a motorcycle? It’s a question that’s long been debated and at the forefront of motorcycle safety. Recently, lawmakers in Nebraska attempted to repeal the states’ motorcycle helmet law, but the bill stalled. It would have allowed riders age 21 and over the liberty to choose whether or not to strap on the headgear before hitting the open road.

Nebraska is one of 19 states along with the District of Columbia requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet. This is known as universal helmet laws. Meanwhile, there are 28 states with laws in place that make it necessary for some riders to wear a helmet based on contributing factors such as age and insurance coverage. And if you’re keeping score, that leaves us with three remaining states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire) who do not have a helmet requirement law.

Studies have revealed to us that head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. However, only 65% of riders across the U.S. actually put on the headgear prior to pulling the throttle. That’s according to the Insurance Information Institute. Why the resistance?

Opponents of helmet laws argue that such regulations obstruct freedom, and that by requiring every rider to wear a helmet, the federal government is attempting to control an area that should be left to the states to decide. ABATE, a national biker safety, education and charitable organization believes teaching, not legislation is the key factor in creating a safe environment for motorcyclists. A similar organization, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), supports helmet laws aimed at young riders. They agree minors may lack the maturity to make a proper decision about helmet use. In fact, the group encourages all riders to wear a helmet, and that each individual rider, not lawmakers in Washington, should make that choice.

The flip side of this story is saving lives and preserving safety. No question about it; helmet laws significantly reduce the risk of injury involving bikers. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), by simply putting on a helmet, you’re decreasing the chances of being killed in a motorcycle accident by 37%. That percentage equates to 1,158 additional motorcyclists who would have died if it were not for wearing a helmet. Plus, medical expenses, and therefore insurance rates, would be reduced because the severity of motorcycle-related injuries would fall.

Proponents suggest stricter laws benefit the public in other ways as well. For example, its believed motorcycle thieves will be less likely to bring a helmet with them while trying to steal a bike. If a helmet law is in effect, the thief’s lack of helmet will draw authorities and possibly lead to an arrest.

At the end of the day, you can see the argument both ways. It’s up to you to learn the facts, hear from all angles and make an informed decision for yourself about whether to support or oppose motorcycle helmet laws.

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