Motorcycle helmet use laws and rate of head injuries

Motorcycle helmet use laws and rate of head injuries – Tips from Other Journals

Motorcycle crashes resulted in more than 40,000 deaths and many more injuries in the United States during the 1980s. Muelleman and associates studied the effect of the reenactment of Nebraska’s helmet use law on motorcycle-related injuries and fatalities. The study included 617 patients from two urban counties in Nebraska whose injuries had been reported to the state Department of Roads between 1988 and 1989. (Nebraska’s helmet use law was reenacted in January 1989.)

The helmet use law was temporally associated with a 26 percent decrease in the reported rate of motorcycle crashes, compared with rates in five nearby states. Sharp declines in the number and rate of reported injuries, hospital admissions, severe non-head injuries and deaths were observed. Serious head injuries decreased by 22 percent. The percentage of injured motorcyclists with serious head injuries was significantly lower among motorcyclists who wore helmets (5 percent) than among those who did not (14 percent).

In a related study, Braddock and colleagues developed a population-based injury and acute care cost profile for fatal and nonfatal motorcycle collisions in Connecticut (which has a partial helmet use law). Data were obtained from a retrospective review of state death certificates, hospital discharge data and police accident reports from 1985 to 1987.

State death certificates indicated that 112 deaths were due to motorcycle injuries. Based on this figure, the annual mortality rate from motorcycle injuries was calculated as 1.2 per 100,000 persons. The mortality rate was highest among men 20 to 24 years of age. Motorcyclists who did not wear helmets were three times more likely to be killed in an accident than riders who wore helmets.

As estimated 2,361 persons were hospitalized because of motorcycle-related injuries. Thus, the annual hospitalization rate was 24.7 per 100,000 persons. Head, neck and spinal cord injuries accounted for 22 percent of injuries. The cost of caring for patients with motorcycle-related injuries exceeded $29 million. Twenty-nine percent of hospitalized patients were uninsured. Hospitals were not reimbursed for 42 percent of the costs of caring for these patients.

The authors suggest that the enactment of a uniform helmet law would save an estimated 10 lives and prevent more than 90 nonfatal injuries in Connecticut each year, resulting in a cost savings to the state of $5.1 million annually. (Annals of Emergency Medicine, March 1992, vol. 21, pp. 266, 273.

COPYRIGHT 1992 American Academy of Family Physicians

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group