The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on states to require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, citing a surge in fatalities since the late 1990’s. Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes and are asking for an update to helmet laws.
Twenty states make all motorcycle riders wear helmets, the board said. Most states have limited helmet requirements, and three states — Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire — have no requirement. Nearly all states had universal helmet laws when they were necessary for full federal highway funding. But in the mid-1990s Congress repealed the requirement, leaving the issue up to states to decide. As states began repealing or weakening helmet laws, fatalities rose.
Motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled during a period when overall highway fatalities declined, stated the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). There were 4,400 motorcycle deaths in the U.S. in 2009 – more than in all aviation, rail, marine and pipeline accidents combined.
Board members said at a press conference they were elevating the helmet recommendation to their annual list of “most wanted” safety improvements to spotlight the issue and pressure governors and state legislatures to act. “People have to get outraged about this safety issue that is causing so many deaths needlessly,” NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart said.
Other countries are doing better. The U.S. had the lowest fatality rate in the world in the 1970s, but Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France and the United Kingdom have surpassed the United States.
The United States no longer ranks highly in road safety by world standards, concluded the new report.
*Source Associated Press / NTSB press release