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Debate Continues Over Helmet Use in California

Posted on in Motorcycle Accidents

Despite continual studies showing that they save lives, helmet usage remains a controversial issue. Since 1991, the State of California has mandated that bicycle and motorcycle riders wear protective helmets to increase safety in the event of an accident. Section 27803 of the California Vehicle Code states that drivers and passengers of motorcycles, motor-driven cycles and motorized bicycles shall wear safety helmets while operating such vehicles.

The law is based on the state's interest in protecting people when they have accidents and most importantly, saving lives.

Yet, a stalwart contingent believes that personal choice, and not a law, should dictate whether helmets should be worn. Each year, the group ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) lobbies state lawmakers to repeal California's helmet laws. They argue that helmet use should be voluntary. They also claim that helmets add to the risk of injury in certain instances, and are ineffective in serious crashes.

However, proponents of helmet use point to the disabling injuries that could prevented by helmet use, as well as the costs of caring for the catastrophically injured. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 13,000 lives have been saved through helmet use between 1984 and 2002, including 1,829 in 2008 (the latest year for such statistics). The NHTSA also cites studies indicating that unhelmeted riders injured in crashes are less likely to have insurance, and higher medical costs than those who wear helmets. This is because those not wearing helmets are more susceptible to concussions and other brain injuries.

Despite the debate over legislating personal choice, wearing a helmet is the best way to reduce your chances of sustaining a life-threatening head injury in a motorcycle accident.

Source: Stuart Leavenworth: Anti-helmet brigades might need to get their heads checked

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