NPR logo NTSB Urges Stronger Helmet Laws


NTSB Urges Stronger Helmet Laws

The NTSB is calling for states to enact tougher helmet laws. Shawn Gust/The Coeur D'Alene Press hide caption

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Shawn Gust/The Coeur D'Alene Press

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on states to enact stronger motorcycle helmet laws. The NTSB motorcycles make up only 3% of the vehicles on the road, but 13% of all fatalities. While the vast majority of states have some sort of helmet law, not all of them require federally approved helmets and the NTSB wants states to change that.

The NTSB therefore recommends that everyone aboard a motorcycle be required to wear a helmet that complies with DOT's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. Currently, 20 states, the District of Columbia and 4 territories have universal helmet laws that apply to all riders. Twenty- seven states and one territory have partial laws the require minors and/or passengers to wear helmets. Three states - Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire - have no helmet laws.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, unsurprisingly, says the move is unnecessary, pointing out that motorcycle deaths dropped last year.

The NTSB acknowledges that, but says:

From 1997 through 2008, the number of motorcycle fatalities more than doubled during a period when overall highway fatalities declined. Although the number of motorcycle fatalities fell in 2009, the 4,400 deaths still outnumber those in aviation, rail, marine and pipeline combined.

That's more than 12 deaths a day. I've only been in one major motorcycle crash myself, and while I completely acknowledge this is only anecdotal, I walked away bruised and battered, but basically unhurt. The full face helmet I was wearing was destroyed.