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The Risks of Riding a Motorcycle Without a Helmet

December 13, 2023

Riding a motorcycle in the open air is an exhilarating experience that no one should miss; however, the same unenclosed, two-wheeled design that makes a motorcycle ride so thrilling also leaves riders vulnerable to severe and even grave injuries in an accident. While a helmet cannot prevent all head injuries, it makes a significant difference in the likelihood of surviving a motorcycle accident. In the event you do get into an accident, call our motorcycle accident attorneys in Seattle today.

Some traumatic brain injuries occur when a strong blow or jolt causes the brain to bump or twist inside the skull. The force of a motorcycle crash on an unprotected rider causes multiple traumas from the original crash force and then through the head’s contact with the road surface or obstacles during the crash. A safety-approved motorcycle helmet adds the protection of a hard outer shell and a cushioning inner layer,  preventing the most severe head injuries in a crash.

risks of not wearing a helmet in seattle

Motorcycle Helmet Statistics

Most states have motorcycle laws requiring either underage motorcyclists or all riders to wear helmets. According to the CDC, motorcycle helmets save close to 2,000 lives per year. Statistics from a CDC study in 2017 revealed the following:

  • Helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists from suffering fatal crash injuries in 2017
  • If all riders had worn helmets in 2017, 749 more lives would have been saved
  • Economic costs associated with injuries from helmetless riders totaled an estimated $1.5 billion in 2017 alone
  • Motorcycle riders reduce the risk of death in a crash by 37% by wearing a helmet, while motorcycle passengers reduce the risk of death by 41%
  • Motorcycle fatality rates are substantially lower in states with helmet laws compared to those with no helmet requirement
  • In 2019, 5,419 motorcyclists died in accidents, double the number of deaths that occurred in motorcycle crashes in 1997

Though the remainder of a motorcyclist’s body remains vulnerable to injuries from direct contact with the road, preventing head injuries is the best way to prevent fatalities in motorcycle accidents.

What Types of Injuries Do Helmets Prevent?

Motorcyclists who choose not to wear helmets risk the following injuries in a crash:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) ranging from mild concussions to severe injuries with life-altering consequences
  • Facial bone fractures
  • Jaw fractures
  • Broken teeth
  • Eye injuries
  • Road rash abrasions with scarring
  • Ear damage

Because the greatest risk of fatality to motorcyclists without helmets comes from traumatic brain injuries, some medical professionals refer to motorcycles as “donorcycles.” This stems from the number of motorcycle accident victims who suffer brain death and become organ donors. When Michigan repealed an earlier helmet law in 2021 organ donorship increased by three times for unhelmeted riders in accidents compared to those with helmets.

Do Helmets Provide Protection Even Without a Crash?

While the most important aspect of a helmet is to protect the head and brain in a crash, it also protects motorcyclists during the ride itself. A helmet protects the eyes and face from injury from rocks and road debris that a motorcycle’s tires sometimes spin up from the road. It also protects against flying insects. Retinal detachment from wind forces, eye infections, and other injuries occur to those who don’t wear helmets while on the road.

Studies also show that wearing an aerodynamic helmet helps reduce the volume of wind noise while riding, protecting motorcyclists from hearing loss.

Learn the Helmet Laws in Your State

Before you hit the open road, it’s critical to protect yourself from literally hitting the road in an accident. Learn your state’s helmet laws, but even in states that don’t mandate helmets for all riders, it’s critical to protect yourself from the risk of severe head injuries in an accident.

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