State’s Rising Roadway Death Toll Expected to Increase
Come August 28th, don’t be surprised if you see more motorcyclists not wearing helmets.
That is likely going to occur, because Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed into law a bill that allows motorcyclists in Missouri to ride without a helmet, provided they are over the age of 26 and show proof of health insurance.
The repeal of the helmet law, which has been threatened for many years, was the subject of vigorous debate in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives. While Missouri joins several other states that have repealed motorcycle helmet laws this past decade, this new law is sure to draw criticism from all corners of the state for a variety of reasons.
Difficult To Enforce New Helmet Law
First, from a law enforcement perspective, the new helmet requirements are going to be difficult for traffic safety officers to enforce. For instance, if a law enforcement officer observes a motorcyclist not wearing a helmet, he or she will have to decide whether the driver is at least 26 and has health insurance coverage. This law is likely to lead to a lack of enforcement of the new age and health insurance requirements for motorcyclists.
A possible solution to the enforcement problem may be to issue special-colored motorcycle license plates to motorcyclists who are 26 years and older and have established health insurance. The license plates would have to be renewed yearly, proving the driver still has health insurance.
The health insurance requirement was included in the law to appease opponents of the helmet repeal. These opponents were concerned that more public funds were going to be tapped to pay the medical bills of brain-injured motorcyclists. While, in theory, this health insurance provision might sound like a good idea to protect the public treasury, we should keep in mind that medical bills are just one part of the overall financial impact of a motorcycle crash.
As a crash lawyer who handles severe injury cases, I am expecting that we will now see many helmet-less motorcyclists suffer more serious head injuries. These injuries will require them to go on disability and public assistance, adding a lifetime expense to the total cost of a serious head injury.
2020 Missouri Traffic Fatalities Expected To Increase Significantly
The signing of this legislation last week by Governor Mike Parson couldn’t have come at a worse time for those attempting to reduce Missouri traffic fatalities, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Missouri, which already has a weak traffic safety record in the recent past, has averaged over 900 traffic fatalities over the last five years. In 2020, traffic deaths are expected to increase and be well-above 900 by the time we reach December 31st.
It should be noted that over the last five years, about 12% of the Missouri traffic fatalities were motorcyclists. Now, with the easing of the helmet requirement, the risk of being killed on a motorcycle will be at an all-time high. This prediction is also based on the fact that there is an increasing number of distracted, aggressive, and reckless drivers making motorcyclists very vulnerable.
Additional evidence suggesting the repeal of the helmet law will increase fatalities comes from Michigan. In 2012, Michigan did away with a law requiring a motorcycle helmet. From 2012 to 2015, Michigan saw a substantial increase in motorcycle accident deaths. Compared to an aggregate average from years with the helmet laws in place, statistics reveal that Michigan lost an additional 56 lives of helmet-less motorcyclists.
Horn Law At Work
Over the last 25 years, our firm has handled hundreds of cases involving injured motorcyclists. In an examination of our past caseload, it is abundantly clear that wearing a helmet has saved our clients from serious brain injury or worse.
While many of our helmet-clad clients did, in fact, suffer a head injury, the injuries were classified as mild or moderate brain injuries. There is no doubt that if our clients had not been wearing a helmet, they would have suffered a severe brain injury with lifetime consequences.
Just in the past month, we took a new case where a motorcyclist was forced to lay down his bike to avoid colliding with a driver who failed to yield the right of away. Our client suffered some very severe orthopedic injuries but was spared a significant head injury due to his DOT approved helmet. He is now recovering and expected to be able to work in 6-8 weeks.
Advancing Motorcycle Safety
I hope that motorcyclists in Missouri continue to make the same choice that my clients have made over the past 25 years—to wear a helmet regardless of the law.
For my part, I will also be continuing our driver safety advancement initiative, Drive By Example. Our mission with the Drive By Example program is to reduce the types of collisions that cause serious injury and death by influencing drivers to drive alert, buckled, cautious, and defensive.
Many car vs. motorcycle accidents happen because the motorcycles have slim profiles and are very difficult to see, even under optimal conditions. By driving more alert and cautious and keeping a careful lookout, many motorcycle injuries can be avoided.