Maryland Statistics 1985 – 2000
One of the better ways to analyze helmet effectiveness is to compare the number of deaths to the number of related accidents. Theoretically, if helmets have significant safety benefits, then the ratio of deaths to accidents should decline as the use of helmets increases, such as after a helmet law is enacted.
In most states the Death to Accident Ratio (DAR) averages between 2% to 3% before and after helmet law have been enacted.
And in some cases the DAR actually increases as it has in Maryland. Keep in mind that the change up or down is small and statistically insignificant. But this finding is anything but insignificant as it means that helmet laws cannot be lauded as having the benefits that helmet law proponents claim.
One thing is dramatically clear however and that is while helmets do not seem to reduce injury and death, helmet laws do. How? When a helmet law is enacted, motorcycle registrations decline and those that ride, ride less often which means fewer accidents.
Keep in mind when quoting these statistics that not all accidents are reported, but what we do have generally comes from Motor Vehicles, police statistics. Even though you can assume that there are more accidents than actually get reported, the same circumstances of how these statistics were compiled are the same for both pre and post helmet law, so there we can assume some consistency of how the numbers were derived and what they represent.
The reduction in overall accidents is a result of improved traffic engineering, driver safety education programs and motorcycle safety programs.
Under Maryland’s Helmet Law, while accidents have declined (which helmets have no effect on) the Death to Accident Radio has increased by 1.04%. This not to imply that helmets don’t provide some safety benefits, but it clearly implies that they are not a panacea and sadly for all the value people ascribe to them, they also provide safety risks.
The sustained high death rate is anticipated in the Goldstein Study: “The Effect of Motorcycle Helmet Use on the Probability of Fatality and the Severity of Head and Neck Injuries.”
IF AIRBAGS AND SEAT BELTS
ARE GETTING A SECOND LOOK FOR KILLING PEOPLE,
WHY NOT HELMETS?
1987 thru 1996 figures come from “Maryland Motorcycle Traffic Accident Trends”, Maryland State Highway Administration, Office of Traffic and Safety, Traffic Safety Division, 11 Feb. 1999
1996 thru 2000 figures from “Motorcycle / Statewide Accident Profile Sheet”, Maryland State Highway Administration, Office of Traffic and Safety, 28 Nov. 2000.
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*Special thanks to Bill Gawthrop for providing statistics.