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Universal motorcycle helmet laws

Health Factors: Community Safety
Decision Makers: State Government
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: <1% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Description

Universal motorcycle helmet laws require anyone riding a motorcycle to wear a helmet. Laws may cover mopeds and scooters as well as motorcycles (CG-Motor vehicle injury).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries
Increased helmet use
Reduced health care costs

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that universal motorcycle helmet laws substantially increase helmet use and reduce fatalities and injuries (CG-Motor vehicle injury, Byrnes 2012). Such laws are effective across all age groups, and are equally effective for male and female riders (CG-Motor vehicle injury).

Universal laws are more effective than partial laws; partial laws may not apply to passengers and require only some drivers, such as young or novice drivers, to wear helmets. When states repeal universal laws or replace them with partial laws, helmet use decreases and fatalities and injuries increase. Even though all partial laws require youth helmet use, universal laws more effectively increase helmet use and reduce fatalities and injuries among youth than partial laws. Universal laws are easier to enforce than partial laws because police officers can more easily identify offenders (CG-Motor vehicle injury). In 2013, nearly all motorcyclists wore helmets in states with universal laws, while about half wore them in states without universal laws (NHTSA 2014).

Economic benefits of universal laws substantially outweigh costs. Following implementation, studies have demonstrated savings of $29 to 96 million per 100,000 registered motorcycles in averted productivity losses and health care expenses per year (CG-Motor vehicle injury).

Implementation

United States

As of 2014, 19 states have universal motorcycle helmet laws, 28 have partial laws, and three (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) have no motorcycle helmet law (IIHS-Motorcycle helmets 2014). Many states have repealed universal helmet laws or replaced them with partial laws in the last few decades (CG-Motor vehicle injury). Polling indicates that most Americans support motorcycle helmet laws (Debinski 2014).  

Some states require helmets that meet federal performance standards (CG-Motor vehicle injury). Laboratory testing has demonstrated that “novelty” helmets, which do not meet federal standards, do not adequately protect motorcyclists (IIHS-Motorcycle helmets 2014). Observational research suggests that about 7% of motorcyclists wore helmets that did not meet federal standards in 2013 (IIHS-Motorcycle helmets 2014).

Wisconsin

Wisconsin requires helmets for persons under 18 or those operating with an instructional permit (GHSA-WI). In 2011, 91% of people who died in motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin were not wearing helmets (NCSL-Motorcycle).

Implementation Resources

IIHS-Motorcycle helmets 2014 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Motorcycle helmets. 2014. Accessed on February 15, 2016

Citations - Description

CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention. Accessed on July 27, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Byrnes 2012* - Byrnes M, Gerberich S. Motorcycle helmet use and legislation: A systematic review of the literature. Minnesota Medicine. 2012;95(1):60–5. Accessed on December 12, 2015
CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention. Accessed on July 27, 2017
NHTSA 2014 - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distracted driving high-visibility enforcement demonstrations in California and Delaware. Washington DC: US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2014. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Citations - Implementation

CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention. Accessed on July 27, 2017
Debinski 2014* - Debinski B, Clegg Smith K, Gielen A. Public opinion on motor vehicle-related injury prevention policies: a systematic review of a decade of research. Traffic Injury Prevention. 2014;15(3):243–51. Accessed on January 20, 2016
GHSA-WI - Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Safety laws in Wisconsin. Accessed on November 24, 2015
IIHS-Motorcycle helmets 2014 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Motorcycle helmets. 2014. Accessed on February 15, 2016
NCSL-Motorcycle - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Current state motorcycle helmet laws and fatality rates. Accessed on November 23, 2015

Page Last Updated

March 25, 2015

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