Motorcycle Fatalities on the Rise in Carolinas, Helmet Laws Scrutinized

January 3, 2008

Motorcycle fatalities in South Carolina increased in 2007 compared with previous years.

There were 120 deaths last year compared with 106 fatalities the previous year and 94 deaths in 2005.

Safety officials say there are several reasons for more deaths last year including more inexperienced riders on the state’s roads, heavier and faster motorcycles and fewer bikers wearing helmets.

In South Carolina, state law requires only bikers younger than 21 to wear a helmet.

A task force of bikers and motorcycle dealers, law enforcement and other officials are studying ways to strengthen safety.

Recommendations will likely not require helmets for everyone, but could make inexperienced riders wear them until they complete safety courses.

Meanwhile, North Carolina motorcyclists are protesting a new state law that requires all riders to wear helmets that meet federal safety standards.

About 40 motorcyclists circled the governor’s mansion on Tuesday and vowed to fight the law that went into effect on New Year’s Day.

Those who oppose the law say the measure is invasive and forces consumers to determine equipment safety. Protest organizer Janice MacKay encouraged riders to challenge helmet tickets in court.

Lawmakers approved the helmet law last year, hoping to increase the quality of helmets that riders use. Annual motorcycle deaths more than doubled in the decade from 1997 to 2006, and a range of studies show that helmet laws can help lower head injuries.

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