Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle Accidents Totaled $16 Billion in Claims

The total for motorcycle accidents totaled $16 billion in 2010, according to a government report, but the full cost is likely higher because long-term medical expenses are difficult to measure. 

Motorcyclists are involved in catastrophic accidents at higher rates than drivers of other types of vehicles, and are 30 times more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than passenger car occupants, according to the Government Accountability Office Report. 

In 2010, over 82,000 motorcyclists were involved in accidents, the report said. 

The average cost for a fatal crash was estimated at $1.2 million, while the cost for injuries ranged from $2,500 to $ 1.4 million depending upon the severity of the claim.

It’s difficult to determine the full costs with accuracy because some types of costs are difficult to measure, the report said. 

For example, treating serious injuries can be long and expensive, but follow up analyses of costs are conducted only for a few years. Also, other consequences of long term injuries such as changes in employment and living status can’t be fully measured, the report said. Laws requiring all motorists to wear helmets are the only strategy proven effective in reducing fatalities and injuries, the report said. 

Several studies have estimated helmets reduce the risk of death by as much as 39 percent, the report said. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated helmets saved the lives of 1,550 motorcyclists in 2010.

There has been strong opposition from motorcycle groups to “universal” helmet laws, and currently only 19 states have them. Another 28 states have “partial” helmet laws that require only some motorcyclists to wear helmets, usually riders under age 21 or under age 18. Three states have no helmet laws: Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire. Last year, Michigan legislators repealed that states helmet requirements for motorcyclists over 21. Other proposals to repeal mandatory helmet laws were considered in California, Maryland, Missouri and Tennessee.

While many motorcycle groups endorse the use of helmets, they also oppose mandatory helmet laws as infringements on personal liberties and their right to assume the risk of riding without a helmet, according to the report. 

The National Transportation Safety Board dropped mandatory helmet laws from their list of ten “most wanted” safety improvements earlier this month, angering some safety advocates. It would certainly appear that mandatory helmet laws would save lives. But based on legislation history relating to the subject, my view may be in the minority.
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