Legal Magazine

Motorcycle Helmets–Still Safe and Highly Recommended

Posted on the 07 May 2021 by Caglelawfirm @ZCagle

Missouri motorcycle crashes are on the rise this spring. In 2020, there were 11 motorcycle crash fatalities, but so far in 2021, there have been 18 motorcycle fatalities and we are not even a week through May. This year, there is new twist. You may have noticed quite a few motorcyclists on the roadway without helmets. While motorcycle helmets are not mandatory for all riders in Missouri as of August 2020, helmets continue to be one of motorcyclists most effective safety devices. During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we do like to remind all motorist to keep a look out for motorcycles as the number one threat to motorcyclists is other motorists not seeing them on the roadway. Motorcyclists have to ride cautiously and keep a look out and safe motorcyclists still wear helmets whether they are in Missouri or Illinois.

In August of 2020, we experienced nine (9) of those motorcycle fatalities in 18 days.

The M issouri Govenor signed a bill in August of 2020 that eased motorcycle helmet laws in Missouri. "The appeal of the all-rider helmet law will have ripple effects across the state of Missouri," said representatives for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in a statement. "More riders will choose to leave their helmets at home, resulting in more unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities and injuries. These preventable tragedies will in turn upend the lives of their families and increase health care costs for Missourians. We hope this imprudent policy change will be reversed in the future and the state's universal helmet requirement will be restored". The mandatory helmet law ahs been a part of the Missouri law for 52 years. Many safety groups opposed this change in MO law including National Safety Council and the National Association of the State Motorcycle Safety Administration's Policy & Research committee.

Michigan was one of the last states to recently lift their mandatory helmet law in 2012 and the fatalities involving non-helmeted riders quadrupled. This occurred likewise in several other states. States that do not have mandatory helmet laws have all experienced much high rates of fatalities and head injuries than states that have mandatory helmets.

Safe Motorcyclists Have Not Tossed Their Helmets

Motorcycle advocates and training programs have not ditched their helmet recommendations after the law change. Avid motorcyclists I know tell me that the law change will not change their behavior one bit as they care about their safety. Their biggest concerns seem to remain that they deeply wish other motorists would keep a look out for them!

Motorcycle crash injuries are grisly and horrifying and life-changing events. I mention it because so many of these crashes are completely preventable! We work directly in the motorcycle injury industry. No motorcyclist has ever told me, 'I wish I was not wearing that dang helmet". Similarly, no car crash victim ever tells me they wished they had not been wearing a seat belt. Helmets and seat belts save lives. Riding safely and looking out for other motorists is our only remedy to reducing the number and severity of motorcycle crash victims.

Under current Missouri law, motorcyclists ages 26 and older can ride without a helmet if they have both medical insurance and financial responsibly (auto/motorcycle insurance). Respectfully, this law is very difficult to enforce. It would require more interactions with our police officers for mundane events. Likewise, a motorcyclist can easily produce an auto insurance card, however, it does not mean that it is active or that it is sufficient. How meaningful is $25,000 if you are hurt? Not very. Unfortunately, if you only carry liability or the other vehicle only has liability, the limit of $25,000 (legal minimum), it does not go very far if a person is seriously injured. Officers will check for card when they have to do any other kind of routine traffic stop. However, the biggest issue is not whether or not motorcyclists are ticketed, it is whether or not they continue to ride safely and not be injured or killed in a motorcycle accident!

Personal & Legal Reasons to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet

One -most important-helmets provide protection for a motorcyclist's head. Because serious head trauma is common among fatally injured motorcyclists, helmet use is critical. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. The odds of surviving a motorcycle crash and brain injury are better when a helmet is worn.

In 2017, there were 10 times as many unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities in states without universal helmet laws (1,177 unhelmeted fatalities) as in states with universal helmet laws (170 unhelmeted fatalities). Motorcycle helmets are currently preventing $17 billion in social harm annually, but another $8 billion in harm could be prevented if all motorcyclists wore helmets. We have written many safety articles about wearing motorcycle helmets. None of that has changed even though the MO Legislature did away with some of the requirements-the facts have remained the same.

Two-If you are hurt in a motorcycle accident, an insurance adjuster may use the lack of a helmet to devalue or deny your claim. Regardless of state laws, public perception is pretty consistent in that most people know helmets make motorcyclists safer. While Illinois has not had a mandatory helmet law for quite a few years, the public opinion and approach by insurance adjusters that safe motorcycle riders wear helmets permeates claims and cases. Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Missouri vs. Illinois (2017)

By failing to wear a motorcycle helmet while riding, you may be giving an auto insurance carrier space to claim that you were not a safe motorcyclists because you chose not to wear a helmet. While that may seem unfair, insurance companies do not need a lot of help in arguing that someone is really not that hurt that badly or partially at fault for their own injuries regardless of how a crash happens. We say this truthfully as lawyers that have fought for many serious injured motorcyclists in Missouri and Illinois. Most victims of motorcycle crashes have no choice but to file a claim as their medical bills are generally astronomically high.

Most the motorcyclists I represent were hit by another motorists who simply did not see them. This is one of the most common types of motorcycle accidents. This often happens at intersections where a motorists is turning left and crashes directly into a motorcyclist simply attempting to ride straight forward. The inattention to motorcyclists and bicyclists is alarming.

Why Don't Motorists See Motorcycles?

The two major causes of other motorists failing to see motorcyclists are "inattentiveness" and threat level. Each of us can do something about inattentive driving by simply focusing on the roadway, putting our phones down and keeping a look out for all individuals on the roadways. "Threat level" involves both of our conscious and subconscious thinking. Let me explain: If you are driving a passenger vehicle and you come to an intersection where several vehicles are entering. You automatically have a higher level of alertness if you see a large truck as you know that a collision with a much larger vehicle is a bigger threat to your person. Of course, you are not assuming the other vehicle is literally threatening you, but it is a mental calculation that we all do when encountering other vehicles. How much damage can that other vehicle do to my vehicle and me? That thought process is used daily as part of navigating traffic.

Thus, we each have to make a conscious decision to be on the look out for all motorists whether they be in a commerical truck or a motorcycle. The vey concept of city, county and state roadways is an agreement by all users to use the roadway in a safe way-it's civilized society.

As a Motorcyclist

As a motorcyclist, you already know that other drivers often don't see you. Most motorcyclists can vividly recall a very close call they may have had with another vehicle due to not being seen. It is one of the primary reasons that motorcyclists like to ride in groups-they have better visibility and their group size does reach our conscious and unconscious 'threat level". So, as a motorcyclists knowing that others often fail to see you, why would you increase the danger by failing to wear a helmet? You may ask why I would care? The more crashes, the more business comes my way, right? In reality, we would far rather motorcycle crashes simply never happened.

We know that motorcycle and car collisions are NOT deceasing. In fact, they are rising. This danger directly impacts each of us that operate on the roadways in our greater bi-state area. Increases in motor vehicle crashes and car crashes result in less safe roadways for all of us. Thus, we do advocate for safer driver behaviors across all states.

So, while we are actively reminding all motorists to be on the look out for motorcyclists- motorcyclists, please wear a helmet!

If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, you will have questions. Call us seven days a week (314) 276-1681 or toll free 1.800.685.3302

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