Many studies and reports have been published regarding the safety of motorcycling and helmet use.
While each one of these reports is biased on whether a helmet would save a life or prevent serious
injury, the results rarely focus on the actual cause of the fatality. I have not seen any study that looked
at if the helmet would have made a difference when the operator died as a result of massive trauma to
the body, it’s just reported that the operator was not wearing a helmet.
A recent report out by the University of Wisconsin states that motorcycle operators that wear helmets
are less likely to suffer neck trauma. This same study also states that other studies contradict these
findings and it does not look at other injuries or factors that may have affected the injury.
There is a constant public push for requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets as a means to prevent
injuries or death without publishing all of the information. A helmet is considered a “silver bullet” to
reducing motorcycle fatalities when in fact a helmet will not help in a case of a driver suffering trauma
to the body. Even in a case where there is a fatality and the driver was not wearing a helmet the
question should be asked if there was in fact a head injury, and if the injury was the actual cause of the
death or was it something else.
A quick comparison of states with the highest motorcycle fatality rates shows that out of the 10 states
with the highest rates, 3 are states that require motorcyclists to wear helmets, whereas the 10 states
with the fewest fatalities, 6 of them are “choice” or no requirement states. These numbers show there is
no true correlation between helmet use and safety. Again, these numbers do not show what the cause
of death was, just whether there was helmet use. Did the helmet prevent a fatality in these situations or
did the helmet cause more harm? These are the questions that are not even addressed when reporting.
With all of the different studies that are represented and all of the conflicting information regarding a
motorcycle helmet and its ability to prevent spinal injury or even death, one thing is known; wearing a
motorcycle helmet is not a “silver bullet” to reducing motorcycle fatalities. A motorcyclist should review
the information and make an educated decision on what is best for the individual. Nothing prevents
injuries or death while operating a motorcycle better than avoiding the crash altogether. Proper training
and driver awareness should be the focus of everyone with an interest in reducing fatalities.