Motorcyclists face unique challenges on Texas roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,668 people lost their lives in motorcycle accidents in 2013, the latest year for which figures were available. Data collected by the NHTSA identified helmet use as the single most effective way to reduce fatalities and to lessen the severity of injuries. For motorcyclists who have been injured due to the negligence of other drivers, working with an experienced Houston traffic accident lawyer can provide added help in achieving fair compensation for their injuries and financial losses.
The Staggering Cost of Motorcycle Accidents
Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, a watchdog group dedicated to improving traffic safety, estimates the social cost of motorcycle accidents at $66 billion each year. Direct economic losses weigh in at $12.9 billion and constitute a serious drain on the U.S. economy. The human costs, however, are even more tragic:
- Motorcyclists represent only three percent of all registered vehicles but make up 14 percent of traffic fatalities in the U.S. each year.
- Riders on motorcycles are over 26 times more likely to die than their car and truck-driving counterparts for each mile they travel.
- In 2014, the Texas Department of Transportation recorded 463 motorcycle fatalities. Approximately 50 percent of those who lost their lives in these crashes were not wearing helmets.
Statistics indicate that universal helmet laws can save lives. In the state of Texas, however, more can be done to protect riders and passengers on the road.
Understanding Texas Motorcycle Helmet Law
Texas law requires that motorcycle operators and passengers use helmets that meet the stipulations outlined in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 when traveling on public streets and highways. An exception does exist to this requirement:
- Motorcyclists and passengers aged 21 or older can legally avoid helmet use by completing an approved motorcycle operator training course or by maintaining a minimum of $10,000 in medical insurance.
Texas law enforcement officers, however, cannot legally stop motorcyclists riding without a helmet solely to determine if they have undergone the required training course or carry the insurance required. This limits the ability of police officers to enforce the helmet use laws on the books.
Helmets Save Lives
The positive effects of helmet use have been clearly demonstrated in states that have repealed their helmet laws or have instituted new universal helmet requirements:
- In Kansas, motorcycle accident fatalities increased by 61 percent after the repeal of its universal helmet law.
- By contrast, California saw a 40 percent decrease in motorcycle fatalities between 1991 and 1993; the state enacted an enforced helmet law on January 1, 1992.
- NHTSA cited a study that showed a 25 percent increase in motorcycle deaths in 24 of 26 states that repealed existing universal helmet laws.
- The CDC has released figures indicating that helmets saved the lives of 1,200 motorcyclists in 2010 alone.
It is estimated that the use of motorcycle helmets prevents $17 billion in societal damage nationwide each year. According to the NHTSA, studies conducted by private organizations and by government agencies have shown a significant decrease in traumatic brain injuries among motorcyclists involved in collisions. In 1996 alone, statistics indicated that 490 lives were saved because of helmet usage.
The smaller silhouette and reduced protection afforded to motorcyclists on the road can increase the chance of accidental collisions. The use of an approved helmet can mitigate that risk to some degree. When an accident does occur, however, it is essential to seek the assistance of a Houston accident injury attorney. These dedicated professionals will provide the legal support needed to achieve a fair settlement and to pursue adequate compensation for their injuries and financial losses. By retaining the services of experienced Houston vehicle accident lawyers, families of those lost or injured in motorcycle collisions can ensure the most positive outcome possible when negotiating with insurers or when taking their cases to court.