Motorcycle Safety: Helmets Save Lives

The Reality

CDC’s new publication, Motorcycle Safety: How To Save Lives and Save Money (Motorcycle Safety Guide) is designed to provide policy makers and others with evidence-based motorcycle safety information in an easy-to-use format. The Guide provides key details on:

  • the public health significance of motorcycle crashes,
  • the best way to protect motorcycle riders,
  • state-by-state data on motorcycle-related deaths and economic costs, and
  • what you can do to increase motorcycle safety.

The Guide, as well as state-based fact sheets, is available online and in hard copy.

Preventing serious injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes is a major and growing public health concern.

Consider that:

  • Motorcycle crashes killed 5,290 people in 2008.
  • The number of motorcycle-related deaths increased every year between 1997 and 2008.
  • Motorcycle crash-related injuries and deaths totaled $12 billion in one year, in medical care costs and productivity losses.

Helmets are estimated to prevent 37 percent of fatal motorcycle injuries for motorcycle riders (operators) and 41 percent of fatal injuries for motorcycle passengers.

A Proven Safety Measure

Helmets save motorcycle riders’ lives.

Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69%. In a motorcycle crash, an unhelmeted rider is 40% more likely to die from a head injury than someone wearing a helmet.

In 2008, helmets saved over 1,800 riders’ lives, but about 800 more lives could have been saved if all riders had worn helmets.

Laws That Save Lives

The most effective way to get people to wear helmets is the universal helmet law.

This type of law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers of all ages to wear helmets that meet the Department of Transportation (DOT) standard whenever they ride.

Each state decides its respective helmet law. As of 2010, 20 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 27 states had a partial helmet law, and 3 states had no helmet law.

Safety Tips for Riders

Photo: A person riding a mororcycle on the open road.When you ride your motorcycle or are a passenger, follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Always wear a DOT-approved helmet.
  • Never drive your motorcycle after drinking. Alcohol greatly impairs your ability to safely operate a motorcycle. If you have been drinking, get a ride home or call a taxi.
  • Don’t let friends ride impaired. Take their keys away.
  • Wear protective clothing that provides some level of injury protection. Upper body clothing should also include bright colors or reflective materials, so that other motorists can more easily see you.
  • Avoid tailgating and riding between lanes.
  • Maintain a safe speed and exercise caution when traveling over slippery surfaces or gravel. 

More Information


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