Should Bikers Be Forced To Wear A Helmet?

Motorcycle Laws

The Economist argues yes:

When states repeal or weaken motorcycle-helmet laws, as dozens have, helmet use falls, fatalities rise and head-injury hospitalisations soar. Biker deaths rose 18% after Michigan repealed its all-rider helmet law in 2012. A rule obliges unhelmeted Michigan riders to carry at least $20,000 in medical-payments coverage. That does not even cover initial stabilisation in intensive care after a nasty crash.

Helmet-haters claim that increased deaths merely reflect a jump in miles ridden after laws are repealed, as bikers enjoy the wind in their hair. Not so. Some studies measure death rates by motorcycle-miles travelled: deaths-per-bike-mile rose 25% when Texas scrapped helmets, for instance.

But Ben Richmond feels that “statistics just don’t work against an emotional appeal of comparing laws to tyranny”:

[T]he trend as of late is against mandatory helmet laws. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws. Only three states have no helmet requirements—Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire—while the rest have age-specified requirements. The American Journal of Public Health points to the laws that protect minors, saying that they prove “that legislators and some antihelmet law forces have accepted a role for paternalism in this debate.”

Some but not much, it seems. Since 1997 seven states have repealed their universal helmet laws. No state has enacted a universal helmet law since Louisiana reinstated the law in 2004.