June 24, 2008

Vital Signs

From today's New York Times:

Death Soars After Repeal of Helmet Law

In 2003, Pennsylvania legislators repealed a law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Researchers who studied deaths and injuries over the next two years say that decision had lethal, and expensive, consequences.

The researchers compared accident statistics from the two years before repeal with numbers from the two years after. After repeal, helmet use among riders in crashes decreased to 58 percent from 82 percent. At the same time, head injury deaths increased 66 percent and head injury hospitalizations increased 78 percent.

Meanwhile, total acute-care hospital charges for motorcycle-related head injuries increased 132 percent in the latter period, compared with a 69 percent increase in other injury costs. The study was published in The American Journal of Public Health.

Although motorcycle registrations also increased, the rate of crashes per 10,000 registrants remained the same, indicating that there was little change in driving habits, road conditions or the risk behavior of riders.

In 1975, the federal government stopped requiring states to have helmet laws as a condition of receiving federal highway money, and today only 20 states and the District of Columbia require helmets for all riders. “We hope that legislators take a look at the data,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Kristen J. Mertz, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, “and consider reinstituting universal mandatory helmet laws.”

1 comment:

Crunchy Hippie Mom said...

I live in PA and my dad was a lobbyist who worked to overturn the helmet law. Most motorcyclist wear helmets and helmet use is encouraged in the community. The law deals with the rights of adults (in PA only adults 21 and over with 2 years of riding experiance are allowed to ride without a helmet) and is more a rights issue then a safety issue. The new statistics only point out an increase over the past 3 years, when compared only to the year previous to the helmet law repeal. It's not a long term study. Also the statistics do not show if motorcyclist injured were wearing helmets or not. I personally know someone who had a head injury while wearing a helmet and had an accident on a motorcycle. The study does not look at drug or alcohol use or take into account the increase in motorcyclist. Also there are not standards for helmet safety in PA. I personally believe this issue is only being brought up for political gain by some politicians. People consider it a serious safety issue, but very few people are actually in the community so the decision does not impact them. I completely agree people should wear helmets, but it should be a choice that's limited just like the law says. I think this legislation was a great compromise between the two groups.