Common Myths About Motorcycle Helmets and Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Myth—Helmets cause neck or spinal cord injuries
Fact—Research has proven this untrue. Five studies reviewed by the GAO all reported a higher incidence of severe neck injuries for unhelmeted riders. An Illinois study found that helmets decrease the number of significant spinal injuries.
Myth—Helmets impair hearing and sight
Fact—”The helmet affects my peripheral vision” and “I can’t hear as well” are two common myths neither of which is supported with scientific data. Normal peripheral vision is between 200° and 220°. Federal safety standards require that helmets provide 210° of vision. Over 90 percent of crashes happen within a range of 160° (with the majority of the remainder occurring in rear-end collisions), so it’s clear that helmets do not affect peripheral vision or contribute to crashes. Hearing is not affected either. Helmets reduce the loudness of noises, but do not affect the rider’s ability to distinguish between sounds. The University of Southern California conducted 900 on-scene, in-depth investigations of motorcycle crash scenes, and could not uncover a single case in which a rider could not detect a critical traffic sound. Some studies indicate that helmets are useful in reducing wind noise and protecting hearing.
Myth—Motorcycle helmet laws are unconstitutional
Fact—The highest courts in more than 25 states have held motorcycle helmet laws to be constitutional. The Massachusetts motorcycle helmet law was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“From the moment of the injury, society picks the person up off the highway; delivers him to a municipal hospital and municipal doctors; provides him with unemployment compensation if, after recovery, he cannot replace his lost job, and, if the injury causes permanent disability, may assume the responsibility for his and his family’s continued subsistence. We do not understand a state of mind that permits plaintiff to think that only he himself is concerned.”
Simon v. Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Source: UCLA School of Public Health, Center for Injury Prevention