The indisputable evidence linking safety and helmet use for motorcyclists says that the state Legislature should mandate their use. It’s as reasonable as requiring motorists to use seat belts.
A 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that motorcycle use is on the increase, and so are related deaths — 55 percent higher between 2000 and 2010.
And it found that helmet use reduced the likelihood of death in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent. It also determined that unhelmeted riders are twice as likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries.
The CDC also found that hospital charges for those suffering a traumatic head injury were a staggering 13 times higher than for other injuries suffered by motorcyclists.
Those who believe that the decision not to use a helmet is simply a matter of personal choice should note that the CDC found the public sustains much of the cost for those traumatic injuries.
It cited a study of 105 motorcyclists hospitalized at a major trauma center: “Sixty-three percent of their care was paid for by public funds, with Medicaid accounting for over half of all charges.”
Opponents of mandatory helmet use often complain that it represents undue government interference. Apparently the opposition to government involvement doesn’t extend to public medical payments for motorcyclists who suffer traumatic head injuries because they choose not to don helmets.
The CDC concluded: “The only safety measure that costs little to initiate and reaches all riders is a state universal motorcycle helmet law. It is also the only measure proven to improve motorcycle safety.”
The message is abundantly clear, but the General Assembly has failed to heed it.
The only motorcycle safety law filed in the Legislature so far this year would forbid children 7 or younger as motorcycle passengers, and restrict unsafe handling of parcels by motorcyclists.
That might provide some slight relief for safety advocates. But not so much as a mandatory helmet law, which would demonstrably reduce death and serious injury to a growing number of South Carolinians who ride motorcycles.
Last year 110 motorcyclists died on South Carolina roads. In 2001, the number of fatalities was 70.
Currently, helmets are mandatory only for those motorcyclists 21 or younger.
The S.C. Department of Public Safety supports universal use of motorcycle helmets.
So should the Legislature.