Stephen Marshall: Helmets save lives, money

March 31, 2013 

Helmets save lives, money

House Bill 109 seeks to repeal our state’s universal motorcycle helmet law. Before proceeding, the House should consider a scientific report from the Department of Transportation that evaluated the effect of an almost-identical law change in Florida.

Consider these facts from the report: On average, 181 Florida motorcyclists were killed annually before the law was repealed. After repeal, motorcyclist deaths rose to an average of 280 per year – an increase of 55 percent. Costs to treat head-injured motorcyclists more than doubled to $44 million annually after the Florida helmet law was repealed.

Similar to the Florida law, HB 109 requires that motorcyclists who ride without a helmet to have $10,000 of insurance. But more than 75 percent of the head-injured motorcyclists in hospital cost more than $10,000. This difference in cost will be borne by already-stressed healthcare system. Similar increases in deaths and healthcare costs for head-injured motorcyclists were observed when helmet laws where repealed in Kentucky and Louisiana.

I urge the House to consider these facts before proceeding further with HB 109.

Stephen Marshall

Director, UNC Injury Prevention Research Center

Chapel Hill

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