Since 2003, Pennsylvania motorcyclists over 21 who have been licensed for two years or taken a safety course can choose not to wear helmets. At a news conference in Harrisburg today, State Representative Dan Frankel from Squirrel Hill explained why he’s introducing a universal helmet law.
Just as predicted by many at the time, Representative Frankel and speakers he assembled say the repeal of the state’s helmet law has led to a decrease in helmet use and a corresponding rise in the number of deaths, hospitalizations and lifelong disabilities.
Christopher Hart, Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board says a universal law could save lives and money because taxpayers have to cover the costs of uninsured or underinsured injured motorcyclists.
If a new helmet law doesn’t pass, Frankel wants special license plates to identify riders under 21 and a requirement for helmetless riders to carry additional insurance.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Kristen Mertz studied statistics before and after the repeal and found helmet use in Pennsylvania motorcyclists involved in crashes has gone down from 82% to 58%. Across the country, 80- to 100% of riders wear helmets in states requiring helmets, while only about 50% wear them when not required. Mertz says helmets are 37% effective in preventing death and 67% effective in preventing brain injuries.