Wear Motorcycle Helmets? That’s a good question!

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Motorcyclists are always evaluating the use of motorcycle helmets. Is this simply a matter of preference or are there significant issues to be considered?

A friend of mine (Bill) has chosen to ride with a helmet, or at times without a helmet. He says it depends upon riding conditions for him. One day he was on a two lane road, traveling about 50mph when a tractor trailer truck pulled out from the right side of the street to go the same direction. His thought was to maintain his speed and simply pass the truck. [Which, most likely could be done.] Unfortunately the truck driver did not have enough room for the turn, and stopped dead still, crossing both lanes. Bill was now approaching the truck too fast and too close to stop safely. He tried breaking hard but immediately knew he was facing the side of the trailer head-on. With quick thinking he laid his Harley on the side and slid under the trailer and on down the road a couple hundred feet. Relaying his story to me, he was flat on his back, feet first, with his arms spread out and his head bopping on the highway. When all was finished he gave credit to God for helping him and praised his destroyed helmet for saving his life. [Plus, the leather jacket and gloves that had taken the tears in place of him.] My friend only suffered from some sore muscles and hurt pride. But, it brings up the subject of helmet safety.

In the KSL-TV News of South Jordan, the Police Chief (Dan Pearson) is likewise teaching people that motorcycle helmets save lives, after losing three friends to motorcycle accidents in two years. All three suffered from head injuries and none were wearing motorcycle helmets. Then, the police chief himself was involved in an accident on highway 89 North of Afton, Wyoming. A truck towing a horse trailer had passed him and pulled in front of him, hitting the front of his motorcycle with the spare tire mounted on the back. Dan was thrown off his bike, landing headfirst. He says, “This injury would have been a fatal blow if I hadn’t had the helmet on.” Dan suffered from bruises and a few broken bones.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcyclists survive a crash and receive less serious injuries when wearing a helmet. They report that at least 600 people are saved each year.

One question that is asked, “motorcycle helmets might protect your brain but can it increase your chances of a broken neck?” Dr. Michael Yorgason, a surgeon at Montana Orthopedics and Sport Medicine, states that the findings from medical literature shows: “autopsy studies done after fatal motorcycle accidents have shown that neck injuries and fractures are equally likely, whether you are wearing a helmet or not.” Yet, most medical reports support the use of motorcycle helmets. They believe that the helmet generally decreases the risk of head and brain injury significantly and surmise that wearing them does not increase your risk of neck injury.

An Italian study concluded that a helmet decreased injury by 66%. A Thailand study found that after making motorcycle helmets mandatory, head injuries decreased by 41% in 2 years. Now, in Kentucky, a study revealed that brain injury increased by 4.3 times when not wearing a helmet.

In an article written by Jonathan P. Goldstein, PhD., titled “The Effects of Motorcycle Helmet Use on the Probability of Fatality and the Severity of Head and Neck Injuries.” He concludes that there are a number of variables in a study that puts the study in question. Major differences are held concerning helmet use or non-helmet use. Normal results compare death and injury rates are two and three times greater for non-helmet riders and increases in occurrence rates in repeal years that vary from 19% to 63%. On one side: the helmet verses the non-helmet study fails to consider these two classes of riders. Stating that helmet riders are more cautious by nature. One, they drive slower, thus have slower speeds in crash situations. Two, they are less likely to have an accident. Three, helmet wearers are less likely to drink and drive (alcohol or use of drugs). These behavior changes dramatically reduce a riders risk.

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