New Federal Safety Study Reports that with Fewer Motorcycle Helmets Come More Deaths

The New Your Times recently reported that more states are being pressured to repeal their universal motorcycle helmet laws. But when those laws are changed, the number of fatalities starts to rise immediately. The resulting rise in the rate of motorcycle deaths as a share of all vehicle deaths has really started to alarm federal researchers who study vehicle safety and crash prevention.

Dr. Ruth Shults, who leads government research on vehicle crash prevention, links the rise in part to pressure from motorcycle advocacy groups to repeal universal helmet laws, as two states, Texas and Arkansas did in 1997. Several other states followed, replacing their universal helmet laws with weaker ones. Florida’s new law required helmets only for riders younger than 21 and those with limited medical insurance policies.

The negative and deadly effects were swift. The number of motorcycle deaths in Florida started to climb steeply after the law changed. After the law change in 2000, a huge share of those new deaths was riders without helmets. Pennsylvania followed in 2003, and Michigan in 2012. This year, of the 19 states that still have universal helmet laws; eight are considering legislation that will change those laws.


New York law requires all motorcycle drivers and riders to wear helmets that comply with federal law. Police authorities of cities, towns, and villages may issue permits exempting members of organizations sponsoring or conducting parades or other public exhibitions from wearing helmets while they are participating.

In addition, New York requires all motorcycle operators to wear goggles or a face shield of a type approved by the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Commissioner is authorized and empowered to adopt and amend regulations covering the types of permissible goggles and face shields and their specifications. To make sure your eye protection meets the Commissioner’s standards, check with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Our law firm has represented many motorcycle drivers and passengers involved in catastrophic accidents. Use and operation of motorcycles in a highly populated, congested urban area such as the New York metropolitan area is fraught with dangers. We highly advise that our clients who choose to operate motorcycles take every precaution, follow all applicable laws and of course, wear a helmet at al times.

Contact the Law Firm of Steven I. Fried, P.C. if you need a Bronx personal injury lawyer after a bicycle accident.