The US federal government in the 1960s required states to introduce laws relating to the mandatory wearing of motorcycle helmets, and by the 1970s the majority of states had done so. However these laws were short-lived and by 1980 a considerable number had been repealed. Most states now require young motorcyclists to wear helmets. Safety campaigners argue that the laws do not go far enough and cause unnecessary fatalities.
If a motorcyclist wears a helmet he or she is less likely to suffer a serious head injury or die in the event of an accident. Further, rehabilitative or ongoing medical care is also likely to be less costly in the case of injury to a helmet-wearing motorcyclist.
Although the benefits to motorcycle helmet wearers have been recognized in the United States for many years there are still many states that have not made wearing motorcycle helmets compulsory and, in a considerable number of other states the laws relating to motorcycle helmets have been relaxed in recent years. Research has shown that in states in which helmets are required by law nearly 100 percent of riders wear them. However in states that only require motorcyclists to wear helmets in certain circumstances, the laws are widely disregarded. As a result, there has been an increase in injuries and deaths in those states that have relaxed their helmet laws.
Wearing a motorcycle helmet prevents dust and other debris from entering the eyes, which can otherwise cause distraction, injury and pain while on the road. A helmet, if well fitted, can also help the rider to hear sounds outside the helmet by reducing wind noise and streamlining the head and ear.
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The states that require all motorcyclists to wear helmets are:
There are no laws relating to motorcycle helmets in Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire. The other states have partial laws relating to motorcycle helmets, which require persons up to the ages of between 14 years old (Maine) and 20 years old (Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas) to wear a helmet. In the other remaining states persons up to the age of 17 and younger must wear a helmet by law. However each state has particular requirements so it is advisable to check your local laws before you use a motorcycle.
When buying a motorcycle helmet you should always buy one that has been certified for use by the US Department of Transportation as these are much safer than helmets that have not passed federal performance tests. Despite this fact, approximately 14% of motorcyclists in the US use non-compliant helmets.