Running Head: Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Impact of Mandatory Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws
July 15, 2012
SOC 376-Z1 Criminological Research Methods
Professor Gregory Fulkerson
Motorcycle Helmet Laws 2
Over the past 30 years, many states have enacted mandatory helmet laws for motorcycle drivers. There have been many states that have rescinded these laws for reasons that may not be known by those most interested – the motorcycle rider him/herself. Currently, less than half of all U.S. states require helmets for motorcycle operators. One who is interested in this topic may wonder how those that are in positions to give the thumbs up or thumbs down regarding these laws make their decision one way or the other. Do they have facts, data and evidence to support their verdicts? Or, are they influenced by stories of horrific motorcycle fatalities recited to them by friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, church members, or acquaintances at the grocery store, garden center and/or the local pub? Could there be a possibility that they might pass a mandatory helmet law due to a knee-jerk reaction to a particularly heinous accident that recently occurred and been covered by television, radio, newspaper and the internet? What are the chances that one of those decision makers was an avid rider who escaped serious injury due to donning a helmet while riding? Those questions might also lead to others, for example, about how much influence lobbyists have when it comes down to the final moments prior to the enactment or veto of a particular bill. Does a lobbyist that is pro-mandatory helmets have more “clout,” or would, for example, a group of motorcycle drivers have any influence? The typical motorcycle rider and/or the general public most likely has no idea what factors are explored prior to the determination of those who have license to make the decision as to how one should dress if they are heading out on a motorcycle. Despite empirical evidence that supports the use of helmets, avid motorcyclists argue that helmet laws violate the Ninth Amendment, which states, “no law shall be enacted that regulates the individual's Motorcycle Helmet Laws 3
freedom to choose his personal actions and mode of dress so long as it does not in any way affect others.” Trends over the past several years have been to review and disseminate accident and other reports written by police and highway patrol officers, hospital workers, witnesses to the scene and road construction workers who may have been at the site at the time of the accident. Figures and findings resulting from the National Highway Safety Act have been accessed. Compilations from states’ motor vehicle divisions and departments of transportation have also been employed extensively to determine if enactment of mandatory helmet laws decreases injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes. These reports and statistics, however, have not included details regarding factors such as age and/or sex of the driver, style and size of motorcycle, geographical demographics, or the number of months one rides or the time of day that the incident occurred. Published research studies regarding statistics from several states were analyzed for this assignment. Some studies include all states of America, while many others focus on a particular state or group of states. Other types of research reviewed included telephone interviews with motorcyclists, articles by motorcycle groups pertaining to published findings and observations of riders, documenting whether or not they were wearing helmets. This student has a particular interest in this subject as she rides a motorcycle. In the state where she resides (Minnesota) there is no mandatory helmet use law. Unfortunately, she is not aware of the particular reasons that her state has made the decision not to enact this law....