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Illinois should push motorcycle helmet law

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 9:34 a.m. CST

(MCT) — New statistics from the Illinois Department of Transportation provide a new opportunity to address an old topic: whether Illinois should have mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists.

The answer is yes.

IDOT said 148 people died in motorcycle accidents in 2012, up from 131 in 2011. Police suspect the increase comes from a combination of increased motorcycle registrations (more riders) and a lack of training.

Personal rights are at the center of arguments from riders who argue helmets should be a choice. Motorists lost that choice, with seat belts, in the mid-1980s.

It’s pretty simple: A helmet provides protection for your noggin when your head bounces off the road or another vehicle, and motorcyclists face a higher chance of injury or death because they are not protected by a roof or four sides of a vehicle.

A report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, looking at multiple studies, “consistently found that helmet use reduced the fatality rate, the probability and severity of head injuries, the cost of medical treatment, the length of hospital stay, the necessity for special medical treatments (including ventilation, intubation, and follow-up care), and the probability of long-term disability.”

Motorcycles have a right to the roads, and motorists need to acknowledge that in word and deed. The recent “See motorcycles” campaign is a great start, and we applaud various rider groups that promote visibility and safety.

But, as unfair as it may be, the burden for safety ultimately falls to the motorcyclists.

In 2008, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated helmets saved the lives of 1,829 motorcyclists, and that 822 motorcyclists who died that year would have survived if they had worn helmets.

That says it all.

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This editorial first appeared in The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

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