Motorcycle fatalities increase nationwide as helmet laws grow less strict

Jun 15, 2012

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A man rides his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in front of Oakland Harley-Davidson on July 19, 2011 in Oakland, California. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Highway fatalities have seen a sharp drop off over the last decade, except in one arena: motorcyclists.

Despite the fact that helmets have been proven by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to decrease fatalities for motorcycle drivers by thirty-seven percent and passengers by forty-one percent, the American Motorcyclist Association, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and the American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) have spent millions lobbying congress against passing new helmet laws, or even repealing laws currently on the books.

Many such groups have also argued that government money should be spent training motorcyclists instead of on things like checkpoints for helmet safety.

According to, “if the biker groups’ lobbyists and congressional allies have their way…the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)…would be blocked from providing any more grants to states to conduct highway stops of motorcyclists to check for safety violations.”

The number of states requiring that all motorcyclists wear helmets continues to drop – with Michigan’s April repeal of its fifty-year-old helmet law, only nineteen states have such regulations, down from the total of forty-seven in 1970.


Current California law does require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, but will that continue to be the case? And do you think that helmets should be required?

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