Missouri lawmakers recently passed a transportation bill that abolished the state’s law requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets. While many are celebrating the governor’s signature on the new bill, there are some serious reasons to be concerned about the safety of people on the roads. Motorcycle and car accidents are likely to become far more serious when the law goes into effect on Friday.
Missouri Ends Requirement That Motorcyclists Wear Helmets
It seems like every year, lawmakers in Missouri try repealing the state’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law. This year, the Missouri House of Representatives passed House Bill 2193. The bill was then combined into the general transportation bill, House Bill 1963 and made its way to Governor Parson’s desk, where it was signed into law on July 14, 2020.
The new law allows motorcyclists over the age of 26 to ride without a helmet if they can prove that they have health insurance. It goes into effect on August 28.
Motorcycle Accidents Likely to Get Worse
It is not rocket science why mandatory motorcycle helmet laws increase road safety: Motorcyclists are already incredibly vulnerable in a car crash, and protecting their head can keep a crash from becoming fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), helmets reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle crash by 37%, and reduce the risk of a head injury by 69%.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) backs this up. According to their numbers, 60% of the motorcyclists who were killed in 2016 in states without mandatory helmet laws were not wearing one. In states with helmet laws, only 8% of those killed were not wearing one.
The numbers from Michigan’s decision to repeal its mandatory helmet law are telling, as well. One study found a 14% increase in head injuries among motorcyclists after their state’s law was repealed. These injuries were also likely to be worse than before: Mild concussions dropped 17% and were replaced by a 38% increase in skull fractures.
Proponents of the repeal in Missouri point out that it is the motorcyclists who are taking the risk. They argue that they should be allowed to make their own decisions when they are the ones who stand to pay the price. However, they fail to account for the impact that it will have on insurance premiums in the state.
Everyone Pays the Price in Higher Insurance Premiums
It is insurance companies who cover the costs of car and motorcycle accidents. When a crash occurs, they are the ones who pay to fix vehicle damage and cover medical expenses.
When the costs of vehicle accidents rises – as they will when helmetless riders get more severely hurt – insurance companies will find themselves paying more.
Because insurance companies cover their costs and make a profit by charging customers insurance premiums, we can expect all of our premiums to rise because of the legislature’s decision to repeal the mandatory helmet law. While it is true that motorcyclists are the ones who can decide whether to take the risk of riding without a helmet or not, they are not the ones who will pay for the extra medical care they may need. Everyone in Missouri will be paying, albeit indirectly.