Sean's Policy Paper

Policy Proposal for Enacting a Mandatory Motorcycle Helmet Law
Motorcycles have come a long way since their invention in 1885 by Daimler (Total Motorcycle, 2003). Originally being designed as a self-propelled bicycle they have always been an oddity to society at large. But in recent years with as many as 6.2 million motorcycles being registered in the United States (NHTSA, 2006) they have been accepted a bit more.
With their bare-bones look, only riding on two wheels instead of four, and the freedom one gets by not being enclosed while riding, motorcyclists enjoy a unique experience. But it’s these features of motorcycles that also raise the biggest problem with them. Motorcycles are one of the most prone vehicles to fatal accidents, with motorcyclists being 35 times more likely to die in a crash than a passenger car occupant (Insurance, 2008). In 2006 alone there were 104,000 in which motorcycles were involved. Of these 104,000 crashes there were 4,810 fatalities of motorcyclists (NHTSA, 2006). 41 percent of these deaths were of motorcyclists who were not wearing proper helmets.
Head injuries are the leading causes of death in motorcycle fatality crashes (Romando, 2006). But there is a way to prevent or lessen these head injuries: helmets. Helmets are some of the most basic and most useful pieces of equipment that can help save the lives of countless motorcyclists each year (Accidents, 2006). Helmets come in all shapes, sizes colors, and styles. But all adequate helmets have one thing in common; they carry the Department of Transportation logo. This logo means that the manufacturer has taken the time and tested the helmet to make sure that it is made and holds up to all standards set by the DOT that make up a safe helmet (NHTSA, 1999). By wearing a helmet one reduces the risk of being involved in a fatal crash by 37 percent (NHTSA, 2004). In fact helmets can serve multiple purposes. If a rider chooses to get a helmet with reflective gear on it, it allows other divers to become more aware of motorcyclists. This would reduce the risk of car to motorcycle crashes which are one of the more predominant crashes involving motorcycles. Also helmets keep debris, rain, fog, excess light, and many other items out of the eyes of riders. These items are also known major factors in causing accidents that involve just a motorcyclist and not another motorist.

To help prevent fatalities and serious injuries in Iowan motorcyclists I propose a mandatory helmet law. This law, when enacted, would require all motorcyclists and passengers to wear a certified helmet while the motorcycle is in use. A law like this has already been brought into consideration by lawmakers, but has never been voted in (Gearino, 2007). This would make Iowa the 48th state to enact a helmet law of some kind. The helmet law would not be a primary offense, but a secondary offense where the motorcyclist would have to commit some other type of offense in order to be cited for it. This means that a motorcyclist could not be pulled over for the sole fact that they do not have a helmet, but because they were speeding, failed to stop at a stop sign or one of many other reasons. The penalty would be a mandatory fine; this fine would increase for every repeating offense. Motorcyclists who receive their first citation, or first citation in five years, are allowed to take a Motorcycle awareness class that would strike the fee and have offense not be put onto their record. An exception to the law would be out of state riders. Riders who are passing through the state who are from a state that does not require a helmet by law are allowed to not wear a helmet if proper state-related licenses are shown. The funding for this project would be self-provided with the fees put on the offenders. Also the fact that it would not require any additional police units to be put into action means that this would be a cheap and effective law. Also by enacting this law Iowa would be in compliance with federal law that would require Iowa to not devote so much federal funding to its traffic safety funds and can take that money and be allowed to put it back into its highway projects funds (Prouty, 1993).
Some people would raise the issue that it is the choice of the motorcyclist to do what they wish with their body. This can easily be rebutted with the argument for mandatory seat belts. Although it is the persons’ choice to do with their body as they wish, it is also their responsibility to themselves to keep themselves safe and alive. This is supported by the statistics that show that helmets help save lives. Another issue that is raised is that a helmet may just be another financial burden put on the owner. One way to combat this would for dealerships to give buyers free helmets with the purchase of a new or used cycle. Dealerships that would do this would receive compensation from the government for their compliance with the law. A final issue that is raised is that some states require only people under a certain age to wear a helmet. Twenty seven states only require people up to a certain age to wear helmets. But according to NHTS only 40% of the riders who are required to wear helmets actually wear them. NTHS also states that most of these riders are uneducated and untrained motorcyclists and are at the most risk for getting in an accident or severe crash.
Motorcyclists are a niche in modern vehicular travel. They like the feel of freedom associated with the two wheels and no metal restraints around them. But they put themselves at great risk by doing so. One of the things lawmakers can do is to enact a mandatory helmet law to try and help safen the ride of these free spirits. As shown, helmets help save lives and prevent injuries in a more cost friendly way than emergency room fees and medical bills. So help our citizens and enact a law that will help raise awareness and make our roads a safer place for everyone.

1. Gearino, Dan Helmet law among Iowa safety proposals. (2007, May 02). Sioux City Journal,
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9. (2006). Motorcycle Crash Accident Statistics . Retrieved March 9, 2009, from Motorcycle Safety Statistics Web site: http://www.motorcycle-
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