Repeal of helmet laws a proven mistake
U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Effective July 1, 2000, Florida eliminated the legal requirement that all motorcycle riders wear helmets. State law now requires helmet use only by riders under the age of 21, or older riders who do not carry at least $10,000 of medical insurance. Observational surveys and crash reports indicated that helmet use dropped substantially following the law change. Motorcyclist fatalities increased by 81 percent comparing 2001-2003 to 1997-1999, compared to +48 percent nationally. Non-fatal serious injuries began increasing in the first six months of 2000, increased by 32 percent in the first year following law repeal. There was a 40 percent increase in the number of injured motorcyclists who were admitted to hospitals. Admissions for head injuries increased by 82 percent. The average head injury treatment cost increased by almost $10,000, to $45,602. In 1998 and 1999, the acute care hospital charges for head-brain-skull principal injury cases per 10,000 registered motorcycles were $311,549 and $428,347 respectively. The comparable figures for 2001 and 2002 were $605,854 and $610,386, adjusted for inflation. Time series analysis showed a statistically significant increase in fatalities while controlling for changes in motorcycle registrations. Similar analyses also showed significant increases for Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. Florida crash reports also indicated that helmet use declined markedly among riders under age 21, who were still covered by the law. Fatalities in this age group nearly tripled in the three years after the law change. Comparing the 30 months before and after the law change, there was an increase of 55 percent in the average annual number of motorcyclists killed (181 to 280, respectively). Registrations increased an average 33.7 percent in this time period. Some of the increases in fatalities and other injuries in Florida were probably due to this increased ridership. The expected number of motorcycle fatalities as a result of the increase in registrations was 242. The actual number who died in 2002 was 301, 56 (+24 percent) more motorcycle fatalities than expected as a result of increased registrations alone. Nationally in 2001 and 2002, motorcycle miles of travel declined compared to earlier years.
Dr. Perlmutter’s comment:
This was obviously the wrong thing to do. The only ones benefiting from this are people waiting for organs for transplantation.