At Ransin Injury Law, we are focused on keeping motorcyclists safe on roadways of Missouri. As a motorcycle accident lawyer for the last 32 years, it is difficult for me to support Missouri’s legislation that would eliminate the requirement for helmets. While I respect the choice of each rider, in my experience motorcyclists are already at a high risk from careless drivers on the road, so removing one of the most effective safety products from this equation only raises the chances of an accident leading to a fatality.
Missouri Motorcycle Helmet Law
The Missouri House has approved legislation lifting the state’s motorcycle helmet mandate for riders 21 and older. Missouri’s law currently requires anyone riding a motorcycle to wear a helmet. Lawmakers for years have debated proposals that would make helmets optional. The House passed the legislation 93-56. It now moves to the state Senate.
Motorcycle helmet laws vary widely among the states and have changed a lot in the past half a century. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, known as universal helmet laws. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states. There is no motorcycle helmet law in three states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire).
In the past, many more states had universal helmet laws, thanks to pressure from the federal government. In 1967, states were required to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds. The federal incentive worked. By the early 1970s, almost all the states had universal motorcycle helmet laws. However, in 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws.
Low-power cycle is a generic term used by IIHS to cover motor-driven cycles, mopeds, scooters, and various other 2-wheeled cycles excluded from the motorcycle definition. While state laws vary, a cycle with an engine displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or less, brake horsepower of 2 or less, and top speeds of 30 mph or less typically is considered an low-power cycle. Twenty-three states have motorcycle helmet laws that cover all low-power cycles. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws that cover some low-power cycles.
Motorcycle Helmet Accident Statistics
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration (GHSA), wearing helmets is the single best way to prevent motorcycle accident fatalities, with a rate 0f 37% for riders and 41% for passengers.
In 2012, 43% of all victims that were fatally injured in a motorcycle accident were not wearing helmets.
In 2013, 44% of all victims fatally injured in a motorcycle accident were not wearing helmets.
NHTSA determined that at least 1,829 lives were saved in 2008 because riders were wearing helmets, and an additional 822 victims would have lived had they used a helmet.
According to the Department of Transportation, only the District of Columbia and 19 states mandate universal helmet laws, even though research have proven that helmet use is the easiest way to help saves lives during a motorcycle accident.
Seven states have repealed the universal helmet law since 1997: Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Michigan.
According to GHSA, helmet use drops significantly when helmet use is repealed.
Fatalities increased in all seven states that repealed helmets laws, with Louisiana coming in 1st with a fatality increase of 108%.
In 2010, nationwide helmet use increased. As a result, motorcycle accident fatality rates drastically decreased.