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Motorcycle Safety Guide: Paying the Bill

Who Pays?

Everyone pays when a motorcycle rider is severely injured. You can talk about freedom of choice, but when other people have to pay for the consequences of that choice, then it’s not freedom of choice at all.
- Lt. Col. James Champagne, Executive Director, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, Retired14

The Public Pays

“Despite the effectiveness of motorcycle helmet legislation, many states have repealed these laws during the last decade. Aspects often neglected by policymakers are who pays for the care of these victims and how much of this cost is subsidized by public funds.”
- Journal of the American Medical Association.16

It is estimated that the economic burden of injuries and deaths from motorcyclerelated crashes in one year totaled $12 billion.4 Studies have also shown that a substantial proportion of costs are paid by the U.S. public due to higher insurance premiums and taxes, as well as lost tax revenue.3,15,16 A study of 105 motorcyclists hospitalized at a major trauma center determined that 63% of their care was paid for by public funds, with Medicaid accounting for over half of all charges.16

Key Factors

Two key factors influence the public’s financial burden from motorcycle crashes: helmet use and hospital and rehabilitation costs.

  • Unhelmeted motorcycle riders injured in a crash and admitted to hospitals face substantially higher healthcare costs than do helmeted riders. Unhelmeted riders also use more of a hospital’s critical resources.17
  • Unhelmeted motorcycle riders are twice as likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries from crashes.17,18,19,20 The median hospital charges for motorcycle riders hospitalized with severe traumatic brain injuries were 13 times higher than the charges for those who did not have a traumatic brain injury.17
  • Unhelmeted motorcycle riders are less likely to have health insurance and are therefore more likely to have their medical expenses paid by government-funded healthcare.15


References are located on the Endnotes page.

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