Serious Head Injuries Up After Pennsylvania Nixes Biker Helmet Law

June 27, 2008

Serious head injuries among Pennsylvania motorcyclists have become more common in the five years since lawmakers repealed the law mandating helmets, according to a legislative study.

Meanwhile, overall motorcycle crash and injury rates have fallen and the fatality rate has remained roughly constant, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report said.

The occurrence of relatively serious head injuries among riders jumped from about six per 10,000 motorcycle registrations in the three years before the repeal to nearly nine per 10,000 registrations in the four years afterward.

The crash rate is down by nearly 15 percent, even as the number of motorcycles on Pennsylvania roadways has boomed by nearly 70 percent since 2000.

State highway records show a record 225 people died in motorcycle crashes last year. There were 4,716 motorcyclists involved in crashes last year, and 57 percent of them were wearing helmets.

The study concluded that current data on motorcycle crashes and injuries were not sufficient to determine how many fatalities or injuries resulted in head trauma directly related to the absence of a helmet.

Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, said the report results did not change his support for the loosening of Pennsylvania’s helmet restrictions.

“I still stand by the belief: Let those that ride decide,” said Wozniak, a motorcyclist and member of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.


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