While probably not a surprise to most, a study recently published in the American Journal of Surgery has found that post the 2012 repeal of the mandatory wearing of motorcycle helmets in Michigan, non-helmeted crash scene fatalities were higher after the repeal (14% vs 68%), non-helmeted riders had a significantly higher in-patient mortality (10% vs 3%), injury severity score (19 vs 14.5) and abbreviated injury scale head (2.2 vs 1.3).
The study undertaken by a team the at Spectrum Health Hospital in Grand Rapids began soon after the repeal of the law commenced when Dr. Carlos Rodriguez noticed a massive spike in motorcyclists being treated at the hospital for head injuries, “I just could not help but notice the number of patients that had been in motorcycle crashes with no helmet on, which was enormously different in number and volume than we had experienced the weekend before.”
The study team looked at records for patients admitted to Spectrum Health Hospital and at state transportation department records of fatalities at crash scenes for the seven-month motorcycle season (April to November) in 2011, before the law was repealed, and for the same period in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Of riders who died at the scene, the proportion of those not wearing helmets increased from 14 per cent to a massive 68 per cent and of those that did make it to hospital, 10 per cent died compared to only 3 per cent who did wear helmets.
In a finding that we can only assume means people are deciding to sacrifice themselves to the motorcycle gods, alcohol use among riders who crashed while not wearing a helmet was higher as well. And for those arguing that individual freedom should usurp laws enforcing safety standards, the cost to the health system because of riders not wearing helmets was almost 50 per cent higher.