A new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers found that the use of helmets reduces the number of fatal motorcycle crashes and provides new ammunition for those who may seek to make helmet use mandatory in Connecticut.
The analysis of state Department of Transportation crash data between 2001-2007 found that there were 9,214 motorcycle crashes, including 358 fatalities. The number of fatalities was more than twice as high – 235, or 65.6 percent – among those riders who were not wearing helmets as among those who were – 123, or 34.4 percent.
The Connecticut Department of Health compiled injury data based on emergency department visits from 2000-2004, but this marks the first peer-reviewed Connecticut motorcycle injury analysis since a study of 1985-1987 data was conducted.
“We weren’t surprised by our findings so much as we wanted to provide up-to-date data to help inform policy and debate,” said Dr. Michael Phipps, one of the researchers. Another goal of the study, he said, was to identify those riders that don’t wear helmets, so targeted educational initiatives can be developed. The study found that those least likely to wear helmets are male riders, passengers, and riders who are younger than 18 or between the ages of 30 and 59.
Connecticut is one of 28 states with partial helmet laws; anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. Of the five other New England states, Massachusetts and Vermont require all riders to wear helmets. Maine and Rhode Island have partial helmet laws, and New Hampshire doesn’t have a helmet law. New York also requires riders to wear helmets.
Connecticut passed a universal helmet law in 1967 in response to the 1966 Highway Safety Act that threatened the withholding of federal highway funds from states without universal helmet laws. Congress amended this act in 1976, and Connecticut repealed its universal helmet law the same year.
In 1989, Connecticut passed a partial helmet law mandating helmet use by motorcycle riders and passengers under the age of 18. Since then, legislation has been introduced five times to mandate helmet use by all riders, but it was defeated each time.
Advocates of mandatory helmet laws say helmets save lives and money. Opponents argue that helmets retain heat and impair the rider’s vision and hearing. They also claim the weight and design of many helmets pose a threat to the neck.