The Cost of Unhelmeted Motorcycle Riders

By Ellen Kuwana
Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer
October 4, 2002

There is no doubt that helmets protect the brain. However, this line of reasoning is not always strong enough to compel motorcyclists to wear their helmets. Now a study has provided evidence that may hit unhelmeted motorcyclists in a place other than their heads -- their wallets! The study, published in the September 2002 issue of the Journal of Trauma, concludes that unhelmeted motorcyclists have higher hospital bills and suggests that therefore they should pay higher insurance premiums.

Researchers analyzed the cases 216 motorcyclists who were involved in motorcycling accidents and admitted to the University of Michigan hospital from 1996 to 2000. Despite a Michigan state law requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets, 42 of the 216 riders (19%) were not wearing helmets when they crashed. The average motorcyclist who crashed while not wearing a helmet racked up $6,000 more in hospital bills than those wearing helmets. (Average inpatient costs for helmeted rider: $31,158; average inpatient costs for an unhelmeted rider: $37,317.) The study found that riders who were not wearing helmets were also more likely to be uninsured. The study suggests that higher insurance premiums for unhelmeted riders may motivate motorcyclists to use their helmets.

Did you know?

Currently only 25 states and Washington DC have laws requiring all riders on motocycles to wear helmets. (Source: NHTSA)

References and further information:

  1. "Trauma: Putting a Premium on Helmets," New York Times, September 24, 2002.
  2. Brandt, M-M., Ahrns, K.S., Corpron, C.A., Franklin, G.A., Wahl, W.L. "Hospital Cost is Reduced by Motorcycle Helmet Use," Journal of Trauma, September 2002, 53:469-471.

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