It is a well-established fact that wearing a helmet protects heads against impact. Helmets help to reduce the risk of brain damage and death. In spite of this, many riders prefer to operate their vehicles without them. This is especially likely in states that do not have universal laws in place. The absence of these laws leaves helmet compliance up to the discretion of riders in many instances.
The NHTSA estimates that only 71% of bikers used DOT-compliant helmets in 2018. This may sound like a high enough figure, but considering the fatality rates of bikers, it is actually quite frightening. Motorcycle riders are overwhelmingly represented among road fatalities despite being a minority on the road. In 2018 alone, 4,985 riders died. That is roughly 13 riders per day.
So, what are universal helmet laws and how do they help? When in place, they make it mandatory for both passengers and operators of a motorbike to wear helmets whenever they travel on public roads. The CDC estimates that these laws coincide with lower rates of motorcycle-related injuries and deaths.
At the time CDC published its study, only D.C. and 19 American states had universal helmet laws. New York and most of its closest neighbors had universal helmet laws in place. The one exception is New Hampshire. Most states have partial laws and three states had no laws at all. These rogue states included Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire.
To illustrate how well universal laws work, it is worth taking a close look at Louisiana. It put its universal helmet laws in place in 2004. Moderate and severe injuries decreased after doing so. Fatalities also reduced by about 30%. Both of these likely stemmed from the fact that crash victims finally became 11.7 times more likely to wear helmets.