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Motorcycle helmets save lives and reduce injuries




Regardless of your take on the issue of whether all motorcyclists should wear helmets, the fact remains that they save lives and reduce injuries. Unfortunately, the number of motorcycle fatalities continues to increase.


Must you wear a helmet in Wisconsin?

The simple answer is “yes” and “no.” Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. sec. 347.485) requires anyone, cyclist or passenger who is under the age of 18 to wear a motorcycle helmet. This also applies to anyone driving with an instructional permit. All others are exempt.

The helmet worn by those who, by law, must wear them has to conform to federal regulations. If the outside of the helmet has a “DOT” symbol on the back, it means it has met federal safety standards. Once fitted with the right helmet, the law requires that you fasten the chin strap.

All operators are required to wear eye protection, regardless of age. Acceptable forms of eye protection include face shields, glasses and goggles.

Anyone in violation of the law will face a fine of around $175.00.


Motorcycle fatalities and injury statistics

According to a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) nearly 5,000 people were killed on motorcycles in 2017, almost 300 less (or a 5.6% decrease) than in 2016. Despite the good news, motorcycle accident fatalities occur 28 times more often than those of motor vehicle occupants.

Tara Casanova Powell, who wrote the report said, “Motorcyclist fatality numbers have fluctuated from year to year over the past decade, so while we are cautiously optimistic about this projection, we really need to see a sustained trend downward toward eventually eliminating motorcyclist fatalities altogether.”

The states that had the most motorcycle accidents were Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Wisconsin averages between 85-100 motorcycle fatalities each year, with more than 2,500 injured. There is approximately one motorcycle crash on Wisconsin roadways every four hours. For 2018, thus far, there have been 50 operator deaths and 5 passenger deaths. Most of those who died were not wearing helmets.


Do motorcycle helmets prevent accident fatalities?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries. Yet only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all users. An additional 28 states require only younger riders to wear a helmet.

On the basis of miles driven, motorcyclists were more than 26 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than occupants of traditional vehicles.


Reasons some motorcyclists won’t wear helmets

As you drive along Wisconsin roadways, you will see some cyclists wearing helmets and some that don’t. Here are a few reasons why some motorcyclists don’t want to wear them.

  • Helmets decrease the ability to hear traffic and other potential dangers to the rider.

  • Helmets decrease peripheral vision.

  • Helmets do not prevent neck injuries and may in fact increase them due to the additional weight.

  • Thinking such as, "I know the dangers and I'm OK with the tradeoffs,” or “Who am I hurting, other than myself, if I crash without a helmet on?”

  • Many find helmets uncomfortable.

  • The primary reasons given are individual liberty and the belief that mandating helmet use is seen as government interference.


We believe you should wear a helmet when riding

Although some of the above reasons for not wanting to wear a motorcycle helmet are well taken, we believe that there are much greater risks involved by not wearing one.

Reasons for wearing a helmet include the following:


  • Reduces the risk of traumatic brain injury.

  • Makes the operator and passenger easier to see.

  • Protects the operator and passenger from road debris.

  • Protects the operator and passenger from the elements.

  • Reduces the chances of a fatality.


How to identify an unsafe motorcycle helmet

For those of you who do wear motorcycle helmets, please read how to identify an unsafe motorcycle helmet.


If you have any questions about this article, please contact us.


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