Study links motorcycle deaths to less restrictive helmet laws

Study links motorcycle deaths to less restrictive helmet laws

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - With the warmer weather kicking in many of you may be hitting the road on your motorcycle. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control links fewer helmets to more deaths.

It shows that while vehicle fatalities have fallen, motorcycle deaths are on the rise.

Research shows when a state opts for less restrictive helmet requirements or repeal them entirely, helmet use and motorcycle related deaths increase.

For example, Florida saw a 21 percent increase in fatal motorcycle accidents after the helmet law was changed.

So what does this study mean for bikers in the Heartland?

"Like anything you kind of take a chance with what you do," said biker Rob Blondi. "So when you climb on a motorcycle you know there's a chance that you may get hurt. You're very open to the elements. And so every motorcycle accident is going to result with some kind of injury versus a car accident which may not because you're encased in metal. So will a helmet save your life? Sure it could. But we all take that risk when we get on a bike."

That risk may be greater in states without helmet laws.

Last year in Missouri, out of 2,692 motorcycles crashes, 2,392 resulted in injury or death. That's in a state with a universal helmet law.

Rob Blondi lives in Missouri, but his friends in Illinois ride helmet-free.

"I've had friends who said they wanted to come over here and see me and they didn't because they didn't want to have to put a helmet on," said Blondi.

In the Heartland, Illinois is the only state without a helmet law, and only one of three in the country.

Both Kentucky and Arkansas require helmets for certain age groups. Missouri and Tennessee law states every biker must wear a helmet.

States are feeling more pressure from advocacy groups to get rid of universal helmet laws.

"You want to take those steps to keep yourself safe. You want to take those steps that reduce the chance of injury," said Cape Girardeau Police Officer Darin Hickey. "We can never be 100 percent safe when we're in a motor vehicle or on a motorcycle, but we want to take those steps and we always encourage people to take those steps to be safe while they're riding motorcycles and wearing a helmet is obviously the first and foremost."

Of the 19 states with laws requiring helmets for all bikers still on the books, eight are considering legislation to change those laws.

Rob thinks that's how it should be: a biker's choice.

"I think that's part of the lifestyle too in a way," said Blondi. "We get on a bike to be free and uninhibited and sometimes people feel like a helmet inhibits."

Last year, the Missouri Legislature was considering a bill to repeal the helmet law, but it didn't pass and hasn't been brought up since.

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