Missouri lawmakers have passed a new regulation that would not require the use of helmets by adult riders of motorcycles who maintain health insurance while still requiring those under 18 to wear a helmet. As the law currently stands, all motorcycle riders are required to wear protective headgear such as a helmet. Supporters of the Senate Bill 147 tout it as a move towards personal freedom; stating that there should be limits placed on things the government should be allowed to regulate. The opposition argues, however, that the required use of motorcycle helmets is a matter of public safety and is exactly the type of thing government should be used for.

Thankfully, Missouri governor, Mike Parson, vetoed Senate Bill 147, though for reasons unrelated to support for the use of helmets for motorcyclists and unfortunately, the bill is likely to pass again. Everyone riding in a car is required to wear a seat belt regardless of whether or not they are insured, why should it be any different for motorcyclists -an inherently dangerous mode of transportation?
According to the Institute for Highway Safety, other states who have relaxed laws requiring helmet use for motorcyclists have seen fatalities go up by more than one-third since doing so. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmet use cuts the risk of brain injuries by close to 70% and reduces the risk of death in a motorcycle accident by nearly 40%. Given these facts, why would anyone believe it was a good idea to repeal the motorcycle helmet law?

Sobering Statistics Relating to Motorcyclists & Their Use of Helmets

  1. In 2017 over 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle crashes.
  2. Over 40% of those killed were not wearing helmets.
  3. Over 800 lives would have been saved if all motorcyclists had been wearing helmets.
  4. Of all motor vehicle crashes, motorcyclist deaths account for 13%.
  5. The risk of head injury goes down by 69% when wearing a helmet.
  6. The risk of death goes down by 37% when wearing a helmet.
  7. In states with no universal helmet laws, there were 1,777 un-helmeted fatalities in the year 2017 whereas in states with universal helmet laws, there were 170 un-helmeted fatalities.
When crashes occur, motorcyclists need adequate head protection to prevent one of the leading causes of death and disability in America —head and brain injuries. Head injuries have devastating and often life-long consequences.

Life-Altering Effects of TBI’s

Traumatic brain injuries resulting from a blow to the head can have life-altering effects including difficulty with the following: attention and concentration, memory, processing, impulsivity, speech and language, difficulty reading and writing, sensory and vision problems as well as confusion, long-term seizures, paralysis, chronic pain, inability to control bowel and bladder, sleep disorders, appetite changes, irritability, depression, aggression and other emotional issues. Even brain damage that is classified as “mild” is misleading and often results in serious, long-term issues such as headaches, nausea or vomiting, fatigue or drowsiness, problems with speech, difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual, dizziness or loss of balance, sensory problems including sensitivity to light or sound, memory or concentration problems, mood changes or mood swings, and feeling depressed or anxious. These “mild” symptoms can last for a year or longer and, in some cases, may not resolve over time.

Financial Ramifications

While these injuries obviously come at the cost of quality of life for those suffering, they also have financial ramifications. Often times, individuals are not properly insured and the state, and its residents, have to pick up the tab for healthcare costs of those who are seriously injured. Initial ER treatment and hospital admission, ongoing therapies and prescription medications as well as loss of income during the period of recovery and loss of earning potential for those with the most severe injuries have a profound economic impact on the individual, their families and others. Putting aside fears of government overreach and paternalistic states, universal helmet requirements are a commonsense way to keep the public safe, prevent unnecessary brain injuries and diminish the strain on the healthcare system.

Contact Griggs Injury Law at 816-474-0202 if you have questions or concerns about the Missouri motorcycle helmet law.