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Bicycle and Motorcycle Helmets (cont.)

Controversies Regarding Helmet Use

  • Opponents to mandatory helmet use have voiced some concerns. They point to restricted vision and a decreased awareness of the surrounding environment while wearing a helmet.
  • Conceivably, a helmet could make it difficult for a rider to see objects to either side or to hear a horn - thus increasing the possibility of a crash. But no study has demonstrated these problems to be a factor in the experiences of real riders.
  • Some riders, most often those who staunchly oppose mandatory helmet use, voice concerns that motorcycle helmets may actually increase the risk of cervical spine injury. Injury to the cervical spine, the portion of the spine in your neck, may cause paralysis, often from the neck down. However, controlled studies have failed to demonstrate an increased risk of cervical spine injury for a helmeted motorcycle rider.
  • Congress stopped tying federal highway construction funds to the individual state mandatory helmet use laws in 1975. Many states have since repealed their universal helmet laws partially or completely. In 1991, the General Accounting Office of the US Congress concluded that motorcycle helmet use reduced rates of death and serious injuries. Universal helmet laws doubled the use of helmets while lowering the fatality rates by 20%-40%. However, more states continue to repeal universal helmet laws.
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