St. Louis, MO
Posted - 03/03/2011 : 9:09 AM
Motorcycle registrations v. motorcycle injuries
Now let's compare motorcycle registration to all unhelmeted injuries. As we know, the Preusser Research Group, examining the effects of the repeal on behalf of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), claimed reliable data was not available and then dismissed the need to factor in registrations; "Further analysis suggests that regardless of this trend, the lack of a universal helmet requirement leads to increased motorcycle fatalities well beyond what might be expected from an increase in registrations." The report goes on to say that, "This increase in helmet use after the reinstatement of the universal helmet law by crash-involved riders was associated with a significantly lower proportion of fatalities, severe injuries, and moderate injuries during the post-reinstatement period compared to the pre-law period. The analyses indicated that there were also fewer severe and fatal crashes following the law change."
So we gave Preusser the benefit of the doubt and argued it that way and still found serious flaws in the group's analysis.[i] Also, anti-helmet law advocates often argue that helmet laws cause registrations to go down and use that to argue that helmet laws are bad for tourism (as well as for small businesses such as dealerships, etc.). So let's look at both assumptions and see how they measure up:
As DataDan already pointed out in terms of fatalities-the MV-1 tables are easily access through the Federal Highway Administration website:[ii]
The data does support the helmet story-injuries rose above the contribution of motorcycle registrations. Had Preusser included the motorcycle data-including the 2004, it would've confirmed their interpretation that unhelmeted use leads to more fatalities. But the story doesn't stop there:
Once the helmet law was reinstated, helmeted fatalities rose fast and in three out of four years-and almost did in the fourth year. Iow, there's very little difference between unhelmeted and helmeted injuries in comparison to registration-and that doesn't support the helmet story.
One of the arguments anti-helmet advocates push doesn't prove to be true either. It's true that registrations dipped slightly the first full year after the reinstatement, but then rose even faster than in the repeal years. If other states are like Louisiana, then, a helmet law doesn't discourage those who want to ride from riding.
In fact, between helmeted and unhelmeted, injuries outpaced registrations in all but 1999. The helmet story, then, doesn't hold up as told. While helmets do prevent some fatal injuries and reduce or prevent some lesser ones, helmets alone are not sufficient to make riders safe on the road.
[i] It may be of interest that the lead data analyst for the NHTSA report was Helen Weinstein, who, according to the Preusser Research Group site, "holds the M.S. degree in Science from Simmons College. She was elected to six successive two-year terms on the Trumbull (CT) Town Council where she has served as Chairman of the Finance Committee, Vice Chairman of the Council and Chairman of the Council." She is the only employee that is referenced in terms of motorcycling and yet has no background in traffic safety nor motorcycling as a basis for analysis of the data. http://www.preussergroup.com/
[ii] See: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/. 2008 is listed by itself. For earlier years, choose vehicles under the category Quick Find.