Could the lives of two Franklin County residents been saved had they been wearing helmets while riding a motorcycle on Cardwell Lane early Wednesday morning? We may not know that answer for a few more weeks when toxicology and autopsy results come back, but there is evidence that wearing helmets save lives.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37 of every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes could have been saved had they been wearing helmets, which reduce motorcycle rider fatalities by 22-37% and brain injuries by 44-65%.
Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia had universal motorcycle helmet laws in the mid-1970s. However, after the federal government eliminated penalties for states without universal helmet laws in 1975, many states repealed the laws.
Currently only 19 states and Washington, D.C., require helmets when operating or riding on a motorcycle. Kentucky was one of those states for 30 years until 1998 when the universal helmet law was repealed. In the 23 years since, motorcycle fatalities have increased by more than 50%.
Under Kentucky law, helmets must be worn by all motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 21; drivers who possess a motorcycle instruction permit; and those who have only had a motorcycle operator’s license for less than a year.
In fact, of the 1,275 motorcycle injuries sustained in accidents on Kentucky roads in 2014, 668 were not wearing helmet. Of the 76 motorcycle fatalities that year, 46 — or nearly 61% — did not have helmets on, NHTSA data indicates.
Did you know 65% of motorcyclists killed in accidents in states without a universal helmet law in 2011 were not wearing helmets — compared to 9% who weren’t wearing helmets in states with a universal helmet law?
Opponents of universal helmet laws claim requiring the headgear infringes on their individual rights. They also say helmets interfere with their vision and hearing, though research that supports these theories is minimal.
How many more Franklin Countians and Kentuckians do we need to lose before helmets are required for all motorcycle operators and passengers? Instead of waiting to find out, let’s urge our lawmakers to make the universal helmet law one of their top priorities.