Texas offers motorcycle riders miles and miles of open road and beautiful countryside. However, a string of deadly Texas motorcycle accidents in July of 2011 serve as a reminder of the dangers of riding a motorcycle and the need for all riders to take precautions to ensure the safest possible ride.
According to news reports of the July accidents, many of the riders died, while one lived; however, the rider that survived suffered severe head injuries. While riding a motorcycle is still safe, if a motorcycle crash does occur, the injuries may be traumatic, ranging from road rash and broken bones to head/brain injuries and even death.
Safe Motorcycle Riding Tips
With motorcycles lacking the basic safety features that are provided by other vehicles — seatbelts, airbags, enclosed passenger compartment, etc. — it is important that motorcyclists take it upon themselves to ride as safely as possible. The Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) offers motorcycle riders the following safe-riding tips:
- Do not drink and ride
- Take a professionally-taught motorcycle safety course — they are good for both beginners and experienced riders
- Always wear protective gear such as a helmet and protective eye-wear
- Drive defensively
- Do not speed
By following the TxDPS safety tips, ensuring that motorcycles are in safe working condition and obeying traffic laws, riding can be safe and enjoyable. While many of the TxDPS safe riding tips are only suggestions, understanding the risks involved in riding motorcycles can help riders make the best and safest possible decisions for them, including whether to wear a helmet while riding.
Texas Motorcycle Helmet Law
Prior to 1997, the federal government tied funding for transportation to states implementing mandatory helmet laws. When the federal policy was reversed, Texas modified its mandatory helmet law. Now, only riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet when they ride.
The choice for older riders to not wear a helmet while riding is not absolute, however. Those that choose to ride without a helmet must meet two conditions:
The rider must be at least 21-years-old; and
The rider must successfully complete a motorcycle safety course OR the rider must purchase and have proof of a health insurance policy that covers motorcycle-related injuries.
Risks of Riding Without a Helmet
For riders that meet the provisions of the law, riding without a helmet is a personal choice. But to make an informed decision to wear a helmet or not, riders should understand the risks involved.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of motorcycle deaths increased annually from 1997 to 2008, with a total of 5,290 people dying in motorcycle crashes in 2008. The CDC estimates that helmets prevent 37 percent of fatal motorcycle accident injuries, and reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent. Further, the CDC estimates that 1,800 lives were saved in 2008 because of helmets, and another 800 lives could have been saved if the riders were wearing helmets.
The TxDPS reports that there were 323 motorcycle accident fatalities in 2003. Of those fatalities, 207 riders were not wearing a helmet. The Southern Medical Journal published a study showing that from 1997 (when Texas modified the helmet law) to 2003, there was a 15.2 percent increase in motorcycle rider fatalities. As reported by Lawyer Shop, based on statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) claims there was a 32 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities from 2004 to 2008; although it is not indicated if this is directly related to helmet use.
Making the Safe Choice
With statistics showing that there has been an uptick in motorcycle rider fatalities in Texas in recent years, it is incumbent on riders to take their safety into their own hands. The decision to wear a helmet is solely up to riders over the age of 21, but the numbers show that wearing a helmet is one of the best ways for riders to protect their safety.
Injuries from a motorcycle accident can be devastating. After an accident, it is important to speak with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney about your rights and the possibility of receiving compensation for the injuries that you suffer. An attorney can help you seek compensation for medical bills, long-term care, repair costs, pain and suffering, and lost wages.