Michael Colbach on his Honda CBR 600 at Portland International Racewayy PSSR motorcycle safety training class.

Motorcycle Accident Injury Effectiveness of Motorcycle Helmets

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Head & Facial Injury

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC)

During 2008–2010, a total of 14,283 motorcyclists were killed in crashes, among whom 6,057 (42%) were not wearing a helmet. In the 20 states with a universal helmet law, 739 (12%) fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing a helmet, compared with 4,814 motorcyclists (64%) in the 27 states with partial helmet laws and 504 (79%) motorcyclists in the three states without a helmet law. [1]

Concussion? Even a mild brain injury can change your life forever.

I have experience representing people with brain injuries and have worked closely in the past with brain surgeons, neurologists, and neuropsychologists to prove the nature and extent of someone's brain injury.

It is important to get the injured person and their family and loved ones all the expert help possible.

The signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can be subtle.

Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may not appear until days or weeks following the injury or may even be missed as people may look fine even though they may act or feel differently.

The following are some common signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury:

• Continuing headaches or neck pain

• Mood changes

• Insomnia

• Sleeping a lot more

• Dizziness

• Nausea

• Light sensitivity

• Memory difficulties, inability to concentrate

• Confusion

• Difficulty thinking, speaking or reading

• Lack of energy

• Blurred vision or tired eyes

• Loss of sense of smell or taste

• Ringing in the ears

Effectiveness of Motorcycle Helmets

Head / Facial injury as well as concussion, and brain injury are prevelant amongst motorcycle riders involved in an accident. Yet, motorcycle helmet use is still not a law in many states. Further, many motorcycle riders choose not to wear the safest helmet possible when they ride. However, there exists good research data which addresses the common concerns and simple tips of what to look for in finding the safest most effective motorcycle helmet.

In a 2009 study, a small number of motorcycle accident injuries were compared.

In the data set, 57 percent of motorcyclists were helmeted at the time of the crashes and 43 percent were non-helmeted. For both groups, about 40 percent of motorcyclists were treated at hospitals or died following the crashes. [2]

Even though the helmet wearing riders were more than half of the total accidents studied, the helmeted motorcycle riders came out much better than the non helmet wearing riders in terms of surviving the accident without traumatic brain injury, head injury, facial injury, or moderate to severe head and facial injury. Helmets reduced the rate of TBI, head injury, face injury, and death.

However, 6.6 percent of unhelmeted motorcyclists suffered a moderate to severe head or facial injury compared to 5.1 percent of helmeted motorcyclists. Fifteen percent of hospital-treated helmeted motorcyclists suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared to 21 percent of hospital-treated unhelmeted motorcyclists. TBI severity varied by helmet use. Almost 9 percent of unhelmeted and 7 percent of helmeted hospital-treated motorcyclists received minor to moderate TBI. More than 7 percent of unhelmeted and 4.7 percent of hospital-treated helmeted motorcyclists sustained severe TBI. [2]

The helmeted motorcycle riders in these accidents had much lower incidence of death from the accident, and lower medical costs as compared to the nonhelmeted riders.

Median charges for hospitalized motorcyclists who survived to discharge were 13 times higher for those incurring a TBI compared to those who did not sustain a TBI ($31,979 versus $2,461). Over 85 percent of hospital-treated motorcyclists without a TBI were discharged home, compared to 56 percent of motorcyclists with severe TBI. [2]

The medical bill difference amounted to the fact of longer hospital stays and prolonged rehabilitation after the accident.

Motorcyclists admitted to the hospital with TBI were more likely to die, be discharged to rehab, or transferred to a long-term care facility. While 17 percent of all hospital-admitted motorcyclists had TBI, they account for 54 percent of all admitted riders who did not survive. […] While over 80 percent of motorcyclists with no, potential, mild, and moderate TBIs were discharged home, only 56 percent of motorcyclists with severe TBI were similarly discharged. Motorcyclists who received a TBI were also more likely to be discharged from the hospital dead or transferred to rehab or a long-term care facility. While over 85 percent of motorcyclists without TBI were discharged home, this percent drops to 56 percent for motorcyclists with severe TBI. [2]

So why not get the safest motorcycle helmet possible?

The motorcycle crash study research always gets around to the motorcycle mandatory laws. Many U.S. states still do not have mandatory helmet laws for all riders; some states have laws for only minor aged riders while some states have mandatory helmet use laws for all riders.

Some Helpful Tips: Selecting The Best (Safest) Motorcycle Helmet

There's a lot of motorcycle helmets out on the market but they are not all the same. Some motorcycle riders worry that a very protective helmet with the facial guard may interfere with their vision and hearing. In fact, motorcycle helmets go through rigorous testing to get the certifications that are most respected. The NHTSA has also conducted research to find the facts about a motorcycle riders vision field and hearing wearing different motorcycle helmets. You can read the NHTSA report on the helmet vision and hearing and see what they studied.

There's a few technical things to look for when shopping for a great motorcycle helmet.

Novelty motorcycle helmets, according to the NHTSA, are just unsafe. [4]

You should also know that the helmet won't last forever. For instance, if you ever drop it, or do take a spill with it, chances are good that your helmet won't protect you the same after that - bicycle helmets are the same.

You should also be aware that some motorcycle helmets have been recalled. The NHTSA keeps a listing of recalls on important things like motorcycle helmets, car seats for kids and infants.

But, the basics are really pretty simple for what to look pros/cons for in your motorcycle helmet and the NHTSA has distilled it down to a little brochure you can download and print here. [5]