The South Carolina legislature recently enacted legislation placing regulations on moped riders, including the requirement that moped riders wear safety vests. The South Carolina governor vetoed the law and the legislature was unable to override the veto. But is the legislature starting to hint at increased regulations for moped and motorcycle riders? Could mandatory helmet laws in South Carolina be next?
Wearing a helmet: freedom of choice or required injury prevention?
We’ve all seen the signs and bumper stickers: Look twice save a life. All drivers have a duty to keep a proper lookout in order to avoid collisions with motorcycles, bicycles, and ATVs. But what role does a helmet play in preventing injury?
Do helmets save lives?
Do you ride a motorcycle and love the feel of the wind blowing through your hair? When you take a ride on your bike – do you leave your helmet in the garage? Have you thought you weren’t going fast enough while riding an All-Terrain-Vehicle to need a helmet? What are the laws in South Carolina concerning use of a helmet? Are helmets necessary to save your life?
In South Carolina, a person over the age of 21 has no statutory duty to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Moreover, failure to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle does not constitute contributory negligence on the part of the motorcycle rider or driver.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that in South Carolina, motorcycle accidents account for 7.7 percent of all traffic fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle death and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.
There are 15.9 fatalities for every 10,000 registered motorcycles with head injury as the leading cause of death.
According to the Hurt Report, approximately three-fourths of motorcycle accidents involved collisions with another vehicle, which was most often a passenger automobile.
Motorcycle deaths accounted for 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2014 and were more than double the number of motorcyclist deaths in 1997.
Helmets can prevent certain types of personal injury, namely brain injuries, because they protect the head and skull fracture and trauma. But helmets do not prevent all injuries. Helmets do not prevent spine injuries or injuries to the arms and legs.
So should an adult have the freedom of choice to decide to wear a helmet or should the law remove that freedom of choice and require a person to wear a helmet?
Again, its important to note, that the best accident prevention is for all drivers, especially drivers of cars and trucks to keep a proper lookout, stay focused, pay attention and drive at a reasonable speed in the conditions then and there existing. Just following these simple rules will go a long way toward avoiding collisions and wrecks, regardless if a motorcyclist is wearing a helmet.
Bicycles Helmet Use
There is currently not a law in place in South Carolina requiring the use of helmets while riding a bicycle
The number of estimated bicyclist injuries climbed to 50,000 in 2014, up from 48,000 in 2013.
The National Safety Council reports that the total cost of bicyclist injury and death is over $4 billion per year.
In 2014, 726 people lost their lives in bicycle vs. motor vehicle crashes, nearly two people every day of the year in the U.S.
SC ranks 46th in the country in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities, with 23.7 fatalities per 10,000 commuters. 13% of all traffic fatalities are either pedestrians (11%) or bicyclists (2%), and the proportion has risen steadily over the last decade.
Using a helmet while riding an ATV
There is currently not a law in place in South Carolina requiring the use of helmets while riding an ATV. However, most ATV user warnings and product pamphlets require users of ATV to wear a helmet while operating or riding the ATV.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not designed for on-highway use, but in recent years more than 300 riders died in crashes on public roads annually.
There were 39 ATV Deaths in South Carolina from 2008 – 2011
From 1982-2007 – 39 Children under age 16 died in ATV crashes
The majority of the 2014 estimated ATV-related, emergency-department treated injuries for all ages were injuries of the head or neck, or the arm, both at 28%.
What do you think? Should it be mandated to wear a helmet? Will you be safer?
According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries, but only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all riders. Deaths are increasing. In fact, fatalities among motorcycle drivers and passengers in 2014 were more than double those in 1997.
What about while riding a bicycle? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that each year about 2 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. In a majority of bicyclist deaths, the most serious injuries are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent, and the odds of head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent. During the past few years, no more than 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.
Furthermore, shouldn’t the blame and focus of motorcycle, bicycle, and ATV injury prevention be on other drivers who fail to properly keep a lookout?
There has been an increase of deaths of ATV riders on public roads more than nine fold since 1982. In 2014, only nine percent of fatally injured ATV riders wore helmets.
Do you wear a helmet? Why or why not? We would love to hear your story!
Statistics from this post have been taken from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, The National Highway Traffic Safety Association, and the National Transportation Safety Board