Every to wear helmets (Motorcycles, n.d.). Many states have

Every time bikers
get on the road without a helmet, they are putting their lives at risk. The
helmet law debate for motorcyclists has been a public controversy for quite some
time. Is a state justified to force motorcyclists to wear helmets? Despite substantial evidence
that motorcycle helmet laws reduce fatalities and serious injuries, only 19
states currently require all riders no matter their age to wear helmets (Motorcycles,
n.d.). Many states have started to take a stand on this controversy and made
this a “universal” law. How long will it take for North Dakota to take a step
in protecting all of their citizens?

Wearing a helmet
is like wearing a seatbelt. Not only does it protect the individual, but it also
protects them against other drivers. Individuals who ride motorcycle do not
have any protection compared to those driving cars. So why is wearing a
seatbelt mandatory yet wearing a helmet while riding motorcycle is not? In
2014, the federal government estimated that per mile traveled the number of deaths
on motorcycles was over 27 times the number than in cars (Motorcycles, n.d.). When
driving a vehicle, you have exterior protection, air bags, seatbelts, and all vehicles
go through crash test courses. Motorcycles have none of these safeguards, the
only safeguard available is a helmet.  Studies
have proven that helmets are effective in reducing head injuries and death because
most of the impact is absorbed by the helmet, rather than the head and brain. The
federal government has estimated that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries
by 69% and death by 37% (Motorcycles,
n.d.). Riders who do not wear helmets are three times more likely to
sustain brain injuries if a crash was to occur (Motorcycles, n.d.). A helmet is crucial in
protecting a motorcyclist head.

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Any state that
requires helmet use must comply with the United States Department of
Transportation (DOT)’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (Motorcycle
Helmet Laws, n.d.). Although all states highly recommend that individuals
should wear helmets each state legal helmet requirements are different (Motorcycle
Helmet Laws, n.d.). In 1967, each state was required to establish
helmet use laws to qualify for certain federal funding (Motorcycles, n.d.).
However, in 1976, multiple states successfully petitioned the Congress and got
rid of these regulations. There are currently three states (Illinois, Iowa, and
New Hampshire) that have no motorcycle helmet use laws (Motorcycles, n.d.). The
other 47 states obey two types of laws for helmet use. Nineteen states follow a
universal helmet law, which is mandated for all riders no matter their age. The
other law that requires only some motorcyclists to wear helmets is in place in
28 states is called a partial law. This law is only mandated for some riders
such as those under a specified age, beginner bike riders (most often defined
as having less than one year of experience), or those who do not meet the
states requirements for medical insurance coverage (Motor Vehicle Injury-
Motorcycle Helmets: Universal Helmet Laws, n.d.). In North Dakota, we have a partial law that only requires motorcyclists
who are under 18 years of age, and their passengers to wear helmets (North
Dakota State Highway Patrol, n.d.). Our neighboring states; Montana, Wyoming,
South Dakota and Minnesota are also partial law states. The closest universal
state would be Nebraska. Unforeseen accidents can happen at any time. Why are we not protecting all
of our citizens who ride motorcycles? Accidents can happen to both beginner and
experienced riders.

            Helmet
law opponents claim that helmet laws impose on individual rights (Motor
Vehicle Safety, 2015). They
also claim that helmets can interfere with their vision or hearing (Motor
Vehicle Safety, 2015). Many individuals believe that wearing a helmet
should be a matter of choice but riding without a helmet has consequences that
affect more than just the motorcyclist (Eltorai, et al.,
2016).  Numerous motorcyclists may lack health care
insurance or are covered by government services, so the public ultimately
shares many of the costs, along with possible long-term care costs if there was
to be an accident (Motor Vehicle Safety, 2015). These
costs include rehabilitation, professional fees, and possible hospital readmissions
due to complications (Eltorai,
et al., 2016). Primary hospitalization and
emergency treatment account for only 67 % of total medical expenses in
motorcycle accident victims. Medical and productivity costs saved from
helmet use are estimated to be $1,316,469.58per accident, $186,434.37per
serious injury, and $8166.06per minor injury (Eltorai,
et al., 2016).  

Therefore,
universal laws provide greater safety and cost benefits (Motor Vehicle Safety, 2015).  

Mandating motorcycle helmet usage will require a system wide change. The most effective way for
states to save lives and save money is a federal universal helmet law (Motor
Vehicle Safety, 2017). By
implementing laws such as those with seat belts, motorcyclists will wear
helmets more often. States that have enacted universal helmet laws discovered
that the use rates increased to 90 percent or higher immediately after the
law became effective, compared to 50 percent or lower before the law (Motor
Vehicle Safety, 2015). No
one wants to receive multiple tickets for violating the law. Mandatory laws are sometimes needed to ensure our
safety.

Education and prevention are key to
preventing injuries to individuals. Motorcyclists can
crash outside their licensed state, causing not only a public issue, but a
federal healthcare issue (Eltorai, et al., 2016). Since this is a public health
matter, public health nurses can bring awareness to the community and educate individuals
on the importance of wearing helmets. Other people that can help bring
awareness are healthcare providers, insurers, and the public. Individuals who
have experienced motorcycle accidents and survived due to wearing their helmets,
or those who have had loved ones pass away due to not wearing a helmet can make
an impact on others. Each year, the
United States could save more than $1billion if all motorcyclists wore helmets (Motor
Vehicle Safety, 2017).

By enforcing motorcyclists to
wear helmets we will save lives, and reduce injuries. Helmet use saved an estimated 1,772 lives in 2015 (Motor
Vehicle Safety, 2017). The single most critical thing you can do to improve
your chances of surviving a crash is to wear a securely fastened, DOT approved helmet.
 By wearing a helmet if there is an accident it
may decrease medical costs along with saving your life. A motorcyclist who
refuses to wear a helmet will more likely to wear one after experiencing an
accident. Prevention is key, and the answer is helmet use, it’s time to
implement federal universal helmet use. 

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