CDC study finds universal motorcycle helmet laws saved U.S. $3 billion

Publish Date: 
Jun 14, 2012

Universal helmet laws are the most effective strategy for increasing helmet use and protecting motorcycle riders and their passengers, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). More than that, helmet use saves the country money, and lots of it, the organization contends.

Annual cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws were nearly four times greater per registered motorcycle than in states without comprehensive laws, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study released June 14 by the organization.

Annual savings in medical, productivity and other expenses in states with helmet laws ranged from a high of $394 million in California (which has a universal helmet law) to a low of $2.6 million in New Mexico (which has a partial law), the CDC reported.

Universal helmet laws result in cost savings, the CDC noted, by increasing helmet use among riders and passengers, which thus reduces crash-related injuries and deaths. According to a CDC analysis of fatal crash data from 2008 to 2010, 12 percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not wearing helmets. In comparison, 64 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with partial helmet laws, and 79 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws.

"Increasing motorcycle helmet use can save lives and money," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, CDC director. "In 2010, more than $3 billion in economic costs were saved due to helmet use in the United States. Another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets."

Helmets prevent 37 percent of crash deaths among riders and 41 percent among passengers, CDC reported, and prevent 13 percent of serious injuries and 8 percent of minor injuries to riders and passengers.

CDC researchers analyzed 2008-2010 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data and 2010 data on economic costs saved by motorcycle helmet use, both obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatal crash data from FARS provide an accurate means of determining in each state whether riders wore helmets at the time of these severe crashes, CDC researchers noted.

Cost savings estimates included medical and emergency services expenses, work-related and household productivity losses, insurance administration costs, and legal fees resulting from deaths and injuries from motorcycle crashes, the agency reported.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws, 28 states have partial helmet laws, and three states have no helmet law.

Posted by Mary Slepicka