WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
June 12, 2008 -- Head injuries from motorcycle crashes rose after the repeal
of motorcycle helmet laws in Pennsylvania, a study shows.
The study's researchers found
a 66% increase in motorcycle-related head injury deaths and a 78% increase
in head injury hospitalizations from motorcycle crashes since the repeal of
Pennsylvania’s motorcycle helmet law in 2003.
"Our study shows that since the repeal of Pennsylvania's motorcycle
helmet law, helmet use has gone down, while head injuries from motorcycle
crashes have gone up, even after increased motorcycle registration,"
researcher Kristen Mertz, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the University of
Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, says in a news release. "The
relatively large increase in head injury deaths and hospitalizations after the
repeal suggests that the law was protecting riders."
Researchers say the findings strengthen the argument for more comprehensive
helmet laws to help protect motorcycle riders. Motorcycle helmet laws have
weakened across the U.S. since 1975, when the federal government stopped
withholding highway money from states without universal motorcycle helmet laws.
Only 20 states have laws that require all riders to wear helmets.
In the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health,
researchers compared motorcycle-related head injuries in Pennsylvania when
motorcycle helmet laws were still in effect from 2001-2002 and after the repeal
They found helmet use decreased
among motorcycle riders involved in reported crashes from 82% to 58% after the
repeal of the motorcycle helmet laws. During the same time period, head injury
deaths from motorcycle crashes increased 66%.
Motorcycle-related head injury hospitalizations also increased 78% after the
law was repealed, and the number of motorcyclists with head injuries requiring
further treatment at rehabilitation facilities and long-term care centers
increased 87% after the repeal.
In comparison, non-head injury-related deaths and hospitalizations that
were motorcycle-related rose by much smaller margins, 25% and 28%
Finally, researchers found total hospital charges arising from treating
motorcycle crash-related head injuries increased 132% in the two years
following the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law, compared with a rise of 69%
for non-head injuries.
SOURCES:Sun, W. American Journal of Public Health, August 2008; vol 98.News release, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.
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