Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Motorcycle Accident Fatalities in Texas – Do Helmets Really Matter?
Many Texas residents enjoy motorcycles, both for pleasure and as their main mode of transportation. Unfortunately, motorcycle accident claims have been on the rise in Texas for a number of reasons. Motorcycle riders already face an increased risk of being involved in an accident than other vehicles on the road. In Texas, it seems as if the risk is even greater.
Are Motorcycle Accidents on the Rise in Texas?
Motorcycle accidents are increasing in Texas, as are the number of fatalities and accident claims. The most recent statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2013, there were more than 88,000 motorcycle riders injured in crashes, with 4,668 fatalities overall across the country.1 In 2014, TxDOT reported from collected data that there were 463 motorcycle fatalities in the state and 2,022 incapacitating, serious injuries were sustained.2 While this is a decrease in fatalities from 2013 when 503 people were killed riding motorcycles, this number averages from 450 to 500 fatalities every year.
Where Does Helmet Use Fit In?
Despite the fact that the number of fatalities has fluctuated between the same general numbers for the past few years, there is something significant to consider in relation to helmet use and fatality rates. Since the changes in helmet laws in Texas, fatalities among those not wearing helmets has increased and remained steady. Beginning in 1997 when the mandatory helmet law was repealed, there was an immediate jump in fatal motorcycle accidents because an estimated 65 percent or more of riders stopped wearing helmets, causing a 30 percent increase in fatalities.3
In correlation with current fatality rates, there has been a gradual increase in rider fatalities when not wearing helmets, to the point that they now account for at least two-thirds of all motorcycle accident deaths, based upon available data gathered between 2003 and 2014.4 As the number of motorcycle riders have increased in Texas, the number of fatalities since 2003 has increased as well, along with non-helmet fatality numbers, maintaining similar percentages each year.
Helmets Save Lives
The statistics do not lie; there was an immediate, significant increase in fatalities once the helmet law was repealed. Considering the fact that two-thirds of all motorcycle fatalities happen to those not wearing helmets, it is quite obvious that helmet use is integral in saving lives. Today, motorcyclists who are over the age of 21 and can show proof of adequate health insurance no longer have to wear helmets. Even the best riders can be involved in a motorcycle accident - and helmet use could make the difference between life and death.
Although motorcycle helmets are no longer the law in Texas, it is still highly recommended that riders wear them since it is clear that they save lives. As the number of riders and cars on the roads increase, the risk of motorcycle accidents and motorcycle accident claims increases with it. Using a helmet is a crucial way that riders can protect themselves if they are involved in an accident!
1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts: Motorcycles
2TxDOT Motorcyclist Fatalities and Injuries
3U.S. National Library of Medicine: The effect of the 1997 Texas motorcycle helmet law on motorcycle crash fatalities.
4TxDOT Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics - 2015