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I am an attorney, and to me whether or not you should wear a motorcycle helmet is a silly question. Of course you need a helmet. Your body is hurtling down the highway at 80 miles an hour with nothing between your skull and the pavement. It is a litigator’s nightmare.
However, lawmakers seem to disagree. Only 19 states, the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico, require that all motorcycle riders wear helmets. Twenty-eight states, Utah and Montana included, require that young riders (typically those under 18) wear a helmet; and three states: Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, have no helmet requirement at all.
According to Mont. Code Ann. §61-9-417, only motorcyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear a motorcycle helmet. Yet no matter what the law is, riding a motorcycle is much more dangerous than driving or riding in a car or any other type of vehicle. Per vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists were more than 26 times more likely to die in a traffic crash than occupants of passenger cars.
The answer is yes. Look at the numbers. For Montana in 2016, the last year for which data are available, there were 17 motorcycle crash-related deaths. Five of those motorcyclists were wearing helmets; 12 were not.
That means that in Montana 29% of people killed while riding a motorcycle were not wearing helmets. However, do not be confused. I am not inferring that there were would be five fewer deaths if everyone wore a motorcycle helmet while riding. The statisticians at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that about four lives would have been saved in 2016 if 100% of people would have worn helmets in 2016.
The data across all states show that states that have a universal, all-ages motorcycle helmet law have the lowest rates of motorcycle fatalities. Motorcycle helmet advocates suggest that passing a universal helmet law in all 50 states would save tens of lives each year.
Another way to save lives would be to ensure that your motorcycle helmet is United States Department of Transportation safety compliant. Helmet standards can be found here.
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