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NTSB Adds Stronger State Helmet Laws to Its Most Wanted List


By Jim Greene

on November 29, 2010

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging states to require all motorcycle riders to wear federally approved helmets. The agency has added stronger helmet laws to its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety, measures it says will increase traffic safety if enacted by the states.

According to the NTSB, while motorcycles make up only three percent of vehicles on the road, they account for 13 percent of traffic fatalities. Nationwide statistics show 4,462 motorcycle fatalities in 2009. The agency said 65 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2008, the latest year for which data are available, were not wearing helmets.

Official Calls Motorcycle Death Public Health Issue

“Too many lives are lost in motorcycle accidents,” said Christopher A. Hart, NTSB vice chairman. “It’s a public health issue.”

Although motorcycle fatalities in 2009 were down from 2008, the NTSB says they doubled in the 10 years prior to 2009, while fatalities for all vehicles combined went down.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently require helmet use by all motorcyclists, specifying helmets that meet Department of Transportation standards. Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire have no helmet requirement. The remaining states have partial helmet use laws, most of those requiring helmets on minors and/or passengers, but not adult operators.

Federal Helmet Law Attempt Thwarted By Motorcycle Lobby

Congress tried to force nationwide mandatory helmet laws in 1967, by threatening to withhold federal highway funds from states not complying. Lobbyists for motorcyclist groups that consider mandatory helmet use an infringement on individual rights prevailed in 1976, when Congress granted states the exclusive right to legislate helmet laws.

Some motorcycling groups promote rider safety education as an alternative to mandatory helmet use, arguing that preventing accidents from happening is the best way to protect motorcyclists.

If you’re a motorcyclist who’s been involved in an accident, you need the help of an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. You may be a victim of the prejudice many people feel toward motorcyclists when you’re dealing with insurance companies or when you have your day in court. Having an attorney on your side who understands the special circumstances of motorcycle accidents can make a difference in your future.

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