NTSB Calls for Universal Helmet Law

Riding a motorbike without wearing a helmet is bad news, but riders seem not to be fully aware of the danger this practice puts them in. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has therefore added a new issue to its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, namely a legislation directed at state governments requiring riders to wear DOT-approved helmets.

The decision to add this new area on the list cam following a report that revealed that from 1997 through 2008, the number of motorcycle fatalities more than doubled during a period when overall highway fatalities declined. Although the number of motorcycle fatalities fell in 2009, the 4,400 deaths still outnumber those in aviation, rail, marine and pipeline combined.

"State governments are in a unique position to effect the most significant improvement in certain areas of transportation safety," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "Our Most Wanted List spotlights those states that have made noteworthy progress in better protecting the traveling public - and those that have not."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. The NTSB therefore recommends that everyone aboard a motorcycle be required to wear a helmet that complies with DOT's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218.

Currently, 20 states, the District of Columbia and 4 territories have universal helmet laws that apply to all riders. Twenty- seven states and one territory have partial laws the require minors and/or passengers to wear helmets. Three states - Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire - have no helmet laws.

Other safety issues on NTSB’s list include eliminating distractions for young drivers, improve child occupant protection, enact primary seat belt enforcement laws, eliminate hardcore drinking driving and enhance recreational boating safety.
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