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Motorcycle fatalities increase nationwide as helmet laws grow less strict

A man rides his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in front of Oakland Harley-Davidson on July 19, 2011 in Oakland, California.
A man rides his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in front of Oakland Harley-Davidson on July 19, 2011 in Oakland, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Highway fatalities have decreases dramatically over the last decade, except for one group: motorcyclists.

Despite the fact that helmets have been proven by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to decrease fatalities for motorcycle drivers by thirty-seven percent and passengers by forty-one percent, the American Motorcyclist Association, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and the American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) have spent millions lobbying congress against passing new helmet laws.

In some cases lobbyists have even tried and succeeded in repealing current laws. Many of the groups argue that government money should be spent training motorcyclists instead of on things like checkpoints for helmet safety.

According to FairWarning.org, “if the biker groups’ lobbyists and congressional allies have their way…the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)…would be blocked from providing any more grants to states to conduct highway stops of motorcyclists to check for safety violations.”

The number of states requiring that all motorcyclists wear helmets continues to drop; with Michigan’s April repeal of its fifty-year-old helmet law, only nineteen states now have such regulations, down from the total of forty-seven in 1970.


Current California law requires all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, but will that continue to be the case? And do you think that helmets should be required?


Rick Schmitt, writer for FairWarning.org; he wrote an article about motorcycle helmet laws and fatalities; FairWarning is a Los Angeles based non-profit investigative news organization that focuses on public health and safety issues

Pete terHorst, spokesperson, American Motorcyclist Association (AMA); The AMA is a motorcyclist advocate organization that has “protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle” since 1924

Andrew McGuire, Executive Director of the Trauama Foundation at San Francisco General Hospital, a public safety advocate organization; he has been advocating for public safety since 1975 and was instrumental in assisting Mary Price, whose son died in a motorcycle accident, lobby for a law in California that required every motorcyclist to wear a helmet; the bill was signed into law in 1992