Myth—Motorcycle helmets laws violate individual rights
Fact—All highway safety laws require individuals to act in specific ways: stop at stop signs, yield to pedestrians, etc. However, courts have consistently recognized that helmet laws do not violate the right to privacy and other due process provisions. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of other traffic laws, like driving on the right side of the highway, buckling a safety belt, using a child safety seat, not driving while impaired, and obeying traffic signals is readily accepted, because all motorists recognize that failure to obey these laws results in serious risk to themselves and others. Motorcycle helmet laws are no different.
Myth—Age-specific motorcycle helmet laws are effective
Fact—Statistics tell us that the helmet use rate in states with age-specific helmet laws is usually the same as having no law at all. Currently 23 states have a law requiring helmet use for a specific portion of the population, usually those under 18 years of age. These laws only complicate the law enforcement community’s job, not make it easier. It’s hard to judge a person’s age when he or she is moving.
Myth—States will no longer lose federal funds if motorcycle helmet laws are repealed. This is the time to repeal helmet laws without penalty.
Fact—In attempts to repeal or weaken helmet laws, helmet laws opponents imply that the Federal Government penalized states without motorcycle helmet laws through a loss of highway construction funds until the repeal of Section 153 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in December 1995. This is not true. From 1992 to 1995, as part of an incentive package for states to pass motorcycle helmet laws covering all riders, Section 153 provided for the transfer of Federal funds from highway construction accounts to highway safety accounts in states not having all- rider helmet laws. The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 repealed this provision.
Myth— Statistics show that fatality rates are lower in states without helmet laws.
Fact— Comparisons should be across years within the same state rather than across states in the same year. This is because states differ significantly on a number of factors, such as weather, length of riding season, population density, urban versus rural roads. The real issue is what happens within a state after a helmet law is adopted or repealed.
Myth—Motorcycles are a small percentage of registered vehicles, thus motorcycle crashes represent a minuscule burden to society.
Fact—Motorcycles are only 2 percent of the registered vehicles nationally, but motorcyclist fatalities are 5 percent of traffic fatalities each year. Motorcyclists account for over 2,100 fatalities and 56,000 injuries. The fatality rate per mile traveled for motorcyclists is 16 times that of car occupants, and the injury rate is about 4 times that of car accidents.
Source: UCLA School of Public Health, Center for Injury Prevention