Universal helmet laws may help save young motorcyclists

October 29, 2014
Universal helmet laws may help save young motorcyclists
Study finds more serious head injuries in states with age restrictions only or none at all.

(HealthDay)—A new study suggests that state laws requiring "universal" motorcycle helmet use—instead of helmet laws just for certain ages—may lower the rates of traumatic brain injuries in young riders.

Traumatic brain injuries are "the biggest burden in trauma care, so we wanted to see whether having universal versus age-specific helmet laws really made a difference in the younger population," study co-author Dr. Bellal Joseph, a trauma surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in a news release from the American College of Surgeons.

States with universal helmet rules require all drivers and passengers to wear a helmet. The new research doesn't confirm a link between the universal motorcycle helmet laws and lower rates of serious head injuries among youths. Still, researchers said that laws requiring helmets do reduce deaths and traumatic head injuries in adults.

Nineteen and the District of Columbia require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Some states require them only for those under 18 or 21, even though research shows that the highest rates of death and injury are among riders aged 20 to 24.

"We know from research that helmet use is significantly greater in states with universal laws compared to those with age-limited laws or no laws at all," lead study author Dr. K. Tinsley Anderson, a general surgery resident at the University of Arizona, said in the news release.

"What we also find is that having an age-limited law is the same as having no law at all," Anderson added. "The rates of helmet usage in those states are the same as not having a law at all."

The researchers examined a database of hospital admissions with a focus on patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries due to motorcycle accidents in 2011. They found 598 cases in 39 states.

The rate of traumatic brain injuries per motorcycle accident was lower in the states with universal helmet laws compared to those that require helmets for riders of certain ages: 307 per 1,000 in states with laws requiring helmets for those under 18 years; 366 per 1,000 in states requiring helmets for those under 21; and 282 per 1,000 in states requiring universal helmet use.

Death rates from traumatic brain injuries were also lower in states with universal helmet laws, the investigators found.

After accounting for all injuries together, the researchers said that young riders in states with universal helmet laws were 2.5 times less likely to suffer a traumatic head injury than those in states with age restrictions.

The study was released Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons in San Francisco. The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Explore further: Motorcycle accidents claiming fewer American lives

More information: For more about motorcycle safety, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related Stories

Motorcycle accidents claiming fewer American lives

May 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—Motorcyclist deaths in the United States appear to have decreased 7 percent in 2013, which would make it only the second year since 1997 in which there has been a decline, a new report shows.

Research supports laws that require bicyclists to wear helmets

May 6, 2013
Bicycle helmets save lives, and their use should be required by law. That's the conclusion of a study to be presented Monday, May 6, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Recommended for you

India launches 'Modicare', world's biggest health scheme

September 23, 2018
India on Sunday launched the world's biggest health insurance scheme which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said would cover some 500 million poor people.

It's not just for kids—even adults appear to benefit from a regular bedtime

September 21, 2018
Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But it's not just an issue of logging at least seven hours of Z's.

Patient-centered visual aid helps physicians discuss risks, treatments with parents

September 21, 2018
A series of illustrations and charts designed as decision aids for parents of children with minor head injuries helped them communicate with emergency medicine physicians and make informed decisions about their child's care, ...

Alcohol responsible for one in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO

September 21, 2018
Alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year—more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined, the World Health Organization said Friday, adding that men are particularly at risk.

Smart pills dumb down medical care, experts warn

September 21, 2018
Enthusiasm for an emerging digital health tool, the smart pill, is on the rise but researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have published a paper in the American Journal of Bioethics that cautions health care ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet Oct 29, 2014
IIRC, in UK, enforcing 'all age' helmets had the unintended consequence of cutting the supply of healthy, young donor kidneys to crisis level.

If you extend State helmet age requirements, better start buying dialysis machines !!

Then again, a lot of 'diesel-slicked' or 'T-boned' UK bikers lived to ride another day...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.