For instance, motorcycle crash-related hospital charges were estimated at almost $249 million dollars, with $58 million due to head injuries in 2006, the study on injuries and costs found. More than a third of the costs were not covered by insurance. Citing other research, the study noted that motorcycle injuries, deaths and medical costs are rising.
Previous research has shown that helmet use reduces head injuries by 69 percent, and deaths from head injuries by 42 percent, according to the helmet laws' study.
Enforcement of helmet laws falls off when mandatory universal laws are rolled back because it's difficult to determine a rider's age prior to a traffic stop, and police begin to see it as less of a priority, according to research cited in the study.
When enforcement declines, young people stop wearing helmets, resulting in increasing numbers of head injuries, the study noted. In fact, in states with a law requiring only youth under 21 to wear helmets, the study found, the rate of serious motorcycle-related traumatic brain injury among youth was 38 percent higher than in states with universal helmet laws.
The hospital data did not distinguish among motorcycles, mopeds and motorized scooters, the authors said.
Only 20 states and Washington, D.C., have mandatory universal helmet use laws, and several of those are considering rolling them back in favor of age-specific helmet laws, either for those under 21 or under 18. The study concluded, however, that helmet laws limited to young people are ineffective at protecting them.
Thirty states repealed mandatory helmet use laws after 1976, when Congress prevented the Department of Transportation from withholding highway safety funds from states without universal helmet use laws, the study found. Sanctions were reinstated and again repealed in the 1990s after lobbying by groups opposed to mandatory helmet use la
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