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Motorcycle Safety Guide: Universal Helmet Laws Increase Helmet Use

There are two types of helmet laws used in the United States.

Universal Helmet Law: Requires all motorcycle riders and passengers of all ages to wear helmets whenever riding.

Partial Helmet Law: Only requires specific groups of people, such as those below a certain age, to wear helmets.

Each state decides its respective helmet law. As of May 2012, 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 28 states had a partial helmet law, and 3 states had no helmet law. Many states have weakened their helmet law over the years, while a few states have strengthened their helmet law.37

The research on states that change their helmet law is very clear:

  • When a state enacts a universal helmet law, helmet use increases substantially.3,30,31,32,33
  • When a state repeals a universal helmet law, helmet use decreases substantially.3,34,35,36
  • When a state repeals a universal helmet law, motorcycle deaths and injuries increase.3

The Positive Impact of Strengthening Helmet Laws

Rate of helmet use before and after enacting a universal helmet law3,30,31,32,33

This chart shows that five states saw an increase in helmet use after enacting a universal helmet law. These states were Nebraska, Washington, California, Maryland, and Louisiana. Nebraska Washington California Maryland

[ View text version of the table ]

All five states gained a substantial increase in helmet use in the year after the universal
helmet law was enacted.

The Negative Impact of Weakening Helmet Laws

Rate of helmet use before and after repealing a universal helmet law3,34,35,36

This chart shows that Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida, and Pennsylvania all showed a substantial decrease in helmet use after these states repealed their universal helmet laws. Arkansas Texas Kentucky Louisiana Florida Pennsylvania

[ View text version of the table ]

All six states showed a substantial decrease in helmet use in the year after the universal
helmet law was repealed.

References

References are located on the Endnotes page.

 
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