Helmet laws make motorcyclists safer, but drivers play a role



Pennsylvania’s repeal of its helmet law in 2003 is one of many factors posing a threat to motorcyclists.

Since Pennsylvania decided in 2003 not to mandate helmets for all motorcyclists, the number of deaths among bikers has increased. Of the nearly 2,600 motorcyclist fatalities that occurred between 2004 to 2016, about half were not wearing helmets at the time of their crash.

Regardless of how you feel about the validity of laws that require helmet use, the fact that these laws save lives is difficult to dispute.

You might believe that these laws, despite their effectiveness, impede personal freedom. But the statistics speak volumes about the consequences of Pennsylvania’s legislation.

The impact of the state’s legislation has been known for years. Research from the University of Pittsburgh, which compared death rates between the two years before and the two years after Pennsylvania repealed the helmet law found that helmet use decreased significantly, and head injury deaths increased by 66 percent.

We are essentially seeing a continuation of this trend since that study.

While the impact of Pennsylvania’s repeal is clear, the issue is more complex than legislation. Since the repeal, there have been other factors that increase the dangers to motorcyclists.

Smartphones and the distraction they cause are a serious threat to bikers. The rate of motorcyclists registered in Pennsylvania has also increased, which obviously plays a role in the rise of motorcyclist fatalities.

Aside from urging lawmakers to change state law, Pennsylvanians may feel that there is little to be done to improve road safety for motorcyclists. However, sharing the road with bikers and being aware of how driving habits impact those around us can help.

We can all do our part to make our roads safer. This includes giving bikers ample space, using turn signals at intersections and remembering that motorcycles are often traveling faster than they initially appear to be.

While wearing a helmet is best practice, there is little a motorcyclist can do about the negligence of other drivers. Helmets can save lives, but the story doesn’t end there.

Even if a motorcyclist practices defensive driving and follows all the rules of the road, they can still be in great danger if the rest of us don’t observe safe driving practices.


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