Recently, we discussed the impact of Florida's July 2000 change from a universal helmet law to a law that lets riders opt out of wearing a helmet if they carry sufficient insurance. As noted in that post, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the change led to a 40% increase in riders admitted to hospitals and 82% increase in head injury admissions. Studies from the Center for Disease Control ("CDC") have also examined the impact of helmet laws, including both the number of fatalities and related economic costs. Given the importance of helmet use, our Panama City motorcycle accident law firm revisits the topic of motorcycle helmets, in this entry, focusing on the CDC studies.
A News Herald report serves as a harsh reminder than motorcycle fatalities are a reality, one that impacts our region all too often. Early Saturday morning, motorcycle rider and Panama City Beach resident Duane Burkett was making a left turn out of a parking lot located at the corner of Thomas Drive and Summer Oak Court. He reportedly turned into the path of a Ford F-250 driven by Marvin Foran of Panama City. Emergency responders transported Burkett to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Foran was not injured in the crash. Authorities are still investigating the incident.
In a June 2012 report, the CDC noted that repeated studies have found helmet use reduces motorcycle crash injuries. Additionally, the agency noted that universal helmet laws, which require all riders to wear helmets, are the most effective strategy for increasing helmet use. The CDC also analyzed 2008-2010 data on fatal traffic crashes in the U.S., which included 14,283 motorcyclist deaths. In the 20 states with universal helmet laws, an average of 12% of fatally injured riders were not wearing helmets. This compares with 64% in the 27 states with partial helmet laws (including Florida) and a whopping 79% in the 3 states with no helmet requirement.
Helmet use not only saved lives and prevented injuries, it also resulted in significant economic savings. Figures on costs saved included injury-related expenses such as the costs of emergency services, medical costs, changes in household costs, and the expense of reduced work productivity, but does not include property damage. Through an analysis of expected versus actual accident data, helmet-use figures, and costs, the CDC drew conclusions about the savings tied to helmet use. Analysis (described in the article) found that, in universal helmet law states, helmet use saved an average of $725 per registered motorcycle, nearly 4 times more than society saved due to helmet use in states without a universal helmet requirement ($198). Further, helmet use saved an estimated $1,212,800 per fatality prevented, $171,753 for each serious injury, and $7,523 per more minor injury. More broadly and more dramatically, helmets saved approximately $3 billion in costs during 2010. An additional $1.4 billion could have been saved by universal helmet use nationwide in 2010 alone.
Despite advocating for money damages, we know that money is never an adequate substitute for a life. Safety is the number one reason we advocate for helmet use. Economic costs are another important factor. If you ride, please wear a helmet, and encourage other riders to do the same. We may not be able to prevent every accident, but helmet use can and does prevent rider death, prevent serious head injuries, and result in economic savings for the individual and society.
If an accident is caused by the negligent or wrongful actions of another, you may have a civil claim. While we advocate for helmet use, we represent injured riders (and the families of those who lost their lives) regardless of whether they were wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Our Panama City motorcycle law firm believes in holding drivers responsible when their negligent failure to share the road causes an accident that leads to rider injury or death. Call to schedule a free consultation.