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Record 15 North Dakota Motorcycle Deaths Stirs Helmet Use Debate

By Jim Greene

on November 12, 2010

With its short motorcycle-riding season essentially finished, North Dakota has recorded 15 motorcycle deaths this year, exceeding the previous annual record of 13, set in 2008. In commenting on the grim statistic, proponents and opponents of helmet use renewed their debate.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Lt. Jody Skogen said nearly two-thirds of those killed in motorcycle accidents this year were not wearing helmets.

“Motorcycles rarely give you second chances, and that helmet is a crucial element of increasing your chances of surviving a crash,” Skogen said.

Motorcycle Group Director Cites Human Error

Michael Jay, executive director of ABATE of North Dakota, a motorcyclists’ group formed to oppose mandatory helmet laws, said that the number of fatal solo crashes this year is “a disturbing trend.” He said such accidents are often caused by human error, including speeding or alcohol use.

Jay echoed the ABATE position that rider education and safe practices are more important in preventing motorcycle fatalities than wearing helmets and other safety gear, because safe riding will reduce the chance of a crash.

Agencies Highlight Riders Who Credit Helmets

When a crash does occur, a helmet can save a life, according to the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department, the North Dakota Safety Council, and North Dakota Highway Patrol. The three agencies joined forces to demonstrate that fact, by staging a “Saved by the Helmet” event recently with the help of riders who believe they survived a motorcycle crash because they were wearing helmets.

Michael and Catherine Roberdeau and Penny House crashed on a group motorcycle ride last month, because of debris in the road. All three were injured. Police say damage to their helmets indicates they might have been killed without them.

If you’re a motorcyclist who’s been involved in a crash, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. When dealing with insurance companies or appearing in court, you may be at a disadvantage because of the prejudice many people feel against motorcyclists. Your attorney will fight to see that you get the fair treatment that is your constitutional right.

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