You have the motorcycle. You have the time to ride and the open road is calling. But do you have a helmet? If not, you should know that you not only run the risk of legal trouble, but also of a serious brain injury or even death. Read on for more information about the laws regarding helmet usage and the reason for them.
Why Do You Need a Helmet?
With less stability and less visibility than cars and trucks, motorcycles have a higher likelihood of being involved in an accident. When an accident occurs, the rider has a much higher likelihood of being seriously injured or killed. In fact, according to information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcyclists and their passengers are 28 times more likely to die in an accident than the occupants of cars. While head injuries aren’t the only potentially fatal injury that one can suffer on a motorcycle, wearing a helmet to protect the head can reduce your chance of dying in a motorcycle accident by 37 percent and can reduce your risk of a brain injury by 67 percent.
What Are Nebraska’s Helmet Laws?
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services explains that the state is one of only 19, along with the District of Columbia, that has universal helmet laws that require the use of helmets by everyone riding on a motorcycle, regardless of age or experience. A 2016 report noted that the vast majority of motorcyclists in Nebraska are heeding the law requiring helmet usage, though about 10 percent of them are using illegal, non-DOT approved helmets.
When the state implemented its universal helmet law in 1989, it saw a decrease in acute medical hospital charges for injured motorcyclists decrease by 38 percent. A study of Nebraska trauma data during the years of 2008 to 2013 found that motorcyclists who crashed while not wearing a helmet were more likely to have a severe injury, be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, and to die from their injuries. Analysis from 2009-2013 showed that Nebraska had a lower age-adjusted death rate than any of the surrounding states with partial or no helmet laws, including South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.
What Are Wyoming’s Helmet Laws?
Wyoming’s Department of Transportation reports that DOT approved helmets are required only for riders who are under 18 years of age. In spite of not requiring all riders to wear helmets, the department notes that most motorcycle crashes occur at speeds under 30 miles per hour and that helmets cut the number and severity of these crashes in half even at slower speeds. Helmeted riders are three times more likely to survive crash injuries if they are helmeted.
An approved helmet allows the motorcyclist to see as far to the sides as necessary, the department explains, and a study of 900 motorcycle crashes—40 percent of which involved helmeted riders—revealed that there was no case in which the helmet prevented the rider from spotting a potential danger. Helmets can either cover the full face or three-quarters, and they must meet Department of Transportation or state standards.
Choosing the Right Helmet
As explained by Motosport, if you’re going to take time to consider what kind of motorcycle you ride, you should also spend time considering what kind of helmet you use when you’re riding it. The following considerations should be made when selecting your helmet:
- If you’re planning to use your motorcycle to commute to work or spend a lot of time riding it, you should consider higher end helmets that offer a greater degree of comfort, as well as better dynamics and reduced wind noise.
- If you’re riding with a group, you’ll want to look for a helmet with built-in communication systems, such as blue-tooth capabilities.
- If you’re riding a track or using your motorcycle to race, you will need a high performance, Snell rated helmet.
The U.S. Department of Transportation sets the minimum standard level of protection for helmets, so you will want one that meets that level. For additional protection, the non-profit Snell provides more stringent requirements. The helmet that you purchase should state whether it is DOT or Snell rated.
Be sure to try the helmet on before buying it to ensure a proper fit. The helmet should sit snugly on your head, with the top of the eye port just above your eyebrows. A properly fitted helmet will not go onto your head easily at first, though it will loosen slightly when broken in. If it moves when fastened on your head or you can fit your fingers between the helmet and your head, it is too big.
You should replace your helmet every five years or if it has been damaged in an accident or even by being dropped. You should never wear a helmet that was used by someone else.
More Statistics on Motorcycle Accidents and Helmet Use
- 41 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists in the United States in 2016 were not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
- In the same year, helmets saved the lives of 1,859 motorcyclists.
- If all motorcyclists involved in crashes during 2016 had been wearing helmets, an additional 802 lives could have been saved.
- On average, a motorcyclist has about two seconds to complete all collision avoidance action.
- More than 95 percent of motorcycle accidents result in some type of injury to the rider.
- 80 percent of Americans favor state laws that require motorcyclists to wear helmets.
- In 1975, 80 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were under the age of 30. In 2017, that age demographic only accounted for 29 percent of the fatally injured motorcyclists.
- 91 percent of the 5,286 motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2016 were male.
- Motorcycle deaths account for 13 percent of all motor vehicle accident fatalities.
- 58 percent of 2016’s motorcycle deaths occurred from May to September. July is normally the month with the highest number of fatalities, while January is the lowest.