By Christopher Hart
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. As the days get longer, bikers across the country are getting their Cruisers, Sport Bikes, Street Bikes, and scooters tuned up for summer fun. Riders gather at various bike rallies, bike weeks, or round ups in places such as Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, and Daytona Beach.
If you know anything about bike rallies, they are usually about the freedom of the road. Often, that means no helmets.
I am writing this because head injuries are a leading cause of death among motorcyclists. Too many bikers perish on our roads each year. Yes, motorcycle riders are exposed to the elements and that’s part of their appeal. Yet, if something goes wrong, riders do not benefit from the solid surroundings they would have in a car or truck so are at greater risk for injury. In a crash, a rider’s single greatest defense against debilitating injury or death is a DOT-approved helmet.
Some riders who don’t use helmets argue that helmets interfere with their ability to see or hear, cause injuries, or can’t be that effective since helmeted riders also die in crashes. Research shows these claims are not true. Just recently, researchers reviewed more than 40,000 cases in the National Trauma Data Bank® and found that compared with non-helmeted riders the riders who wore helmets had lower odds of experiencing a cervical or traumatic brain injury after a crash.
So, please enjoy your motorcycle. Have fun. And, if you wear a helmet, science and safety will be on your side.
For additional information, see our Motorcycle Safety Questions & Answers.
Christopher A. Hart was sworn in as a Member of the NTSB on August 12, 2009 and designated by the President for a two-year term as Vice Chairman of the Board on August 18. Member Hart joined the Board after a long career in transportation safety, including a previous term as a Member of the NTSB.