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Helmet Laws and Motorcycle Accidents

The number of motorcycle accidents in Kentucky is alarming. In the first half of 2012, the Kentucky State Police reported more than 800 motorcycle collisions and 33 fatalities, according to WLKY.  In 2011, there were 1,370 motorcycle injuries and 72 fatalities in Kentucky, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 20- to 24-year-olds had the highest rate of injury and death on motorcycles. Among nonfatal motorcycle crashes, the most common injury, at 30 percent, involved leg or foot trauma. Head and neck injuries were the second-leading motorcycle injury at 22 percent.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says that helmets can prevent an estimated 37 percent of motorcycle fatalities. Helmet laws vary by state. Some states have universal helmet laws that require all riders to wear helmets. Others have partial helmet laws requiring them for only some riders. And some states do not require helmets at all.

Kentucky repealed its universal helmet law in 1998. It now has a partial helmet law that requires the following riders to wear a helmet:

  • Anyone under the age of 21
  • Anyone licensed for less than a year
  • Anyone without medical insurance

The CDC says that helmets saved 32 lives per 100,000 motorcyclists in Kentucky. In Tennessee and Mississippi, which have universal helmet laws, the number of lives saved was 46 and 55, respectively.

In addition, helmet use saved Kentucky an estimated $65 million, while Tennessee and Mississippi saved $94 million and $113 million.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recommends these safety tips for all motorcyclists:

  • Wear reflective gear or bright clothing.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Keep headlights on at all times.
  • Keep enough space between your motorcycle and other vehicles.
  • Do not follow other vehicles too closely.
  • Wear clear eye protection at night.