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A truly universal helmet law

November 16, 2010 - Rob Weaver
National Transportation Safety Board released a "Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety" today. The list includes having all states require every motorcycle rider to wear a helmet. "From 1997 through 2008, the number of motorcycle fatalities more than doubled during a period when overall highway fatalities declined,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in a news release. “Although the number of motorcycle fatalities fell in 2009, the 4,400 deaths still outnumber those in aviation, rail, marine and pipeline combined." Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes, according to the Department of Transportation. Now, 20 states require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Three states — Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire — have no requirement. The rest have limited helmet requirements. For example, in Ohio, beginning riders and riders younger than 18 must wear lids. A passenger must wear a helmet if the rider is required to wear one. I side with the American Motorcyclist Association on this issue. Ohio’s law is a good one, leaving it up to adults to decide whether to wear a helmet. I prefer to wear one, and typically do. I find a helmet, particularly a full-face model, can restrict the field of vision. But I have found my noggin is such a magnet for birds, rocks, debris -- even walnuts -- that a helmet works in my favor. My feeling is, if it’s a great idea to demand all riders in all states to don helmets, it’s also should be a requirement for everyone who occupies a motor vehicle. And if federal transportation officials pursue ways to compel every state to comply, the AMA and other motorcycle-rights organizations should insist the rule apply to operators and occupants of all automotive vehicles.


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