In the last decade, motorcycle accident fatalities have more than doubled. In 2011, the country had 4.550 deaths due to accidents involving motorcycles. This rise in fatalities directly coincides with a decrease in the number of states requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Interestingly, this increase comes at a time when overall deaths from vehicle accidents have decreased.
In the 1970s, 47 out of the 50 states had motorcycle helmet laws on the books. Today, this number has shrunk to just 19. Safety advocates feel this may be the reason for the increase in fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control recently issued a report that found that five times as many riders who did not wear helmets died in motorcycle accidents when compared to riders who wore them. They also found that between 2001 and 2008, motorcyclist death rates increased a full 55 percent.
The National Highway and Safety Administration estimated in 2009 that 1,483 lives were saved because of helmet use, and an additional 732 would have been saved had the riders worn helmets. These statistics are the main reason that safety organizations regularly advocate for increased helmet laws and fight to preserve those still on the books.
Yet, in spite of these statistics, which clearly point to the benefit of helmet use, biker groups, like the American Motorcyclist Association, are pushing lawmakers to get rid of helmet laws in states that still have them. The reasoning is that helmet mandates inadvertently take resources away from crash prevention programs and motorist awareness campaigns, which they view as a more effective means of protecting those on motorcycles. Their opponents feel that this is a worthwhile risk, because helmet use so greatly reduces fatalities.
Source: USA Today, "Motorcycle deaths rise as states repeal helmet laws," Chris Woodyard, June 7, 2012