A 19-year-old from Tennessee recently underwent his 18th surgery. Three years ago, he was riding his motorcycle when he was struck by a vehicle and suffered a broken jaw, a broken arm, several broken ribs, a broken pelvis, shatters to both femurs and the tibia and the loss of six teeth.
Our Tennessee motorcycle accident lawyers know that if it wasn’t for the helmet he was wearing he likely would have suffered permanent brain damage – or worse.
And yet, lawmakers in both the state’s House and Senate transportation committees are considering a measure that would essentially repeal laws that require motorcycle riders to wear helmets.
It’s true that wearing a helmet isn’t going to necessarily prevent a crash. However, helmet use has been proven to significantly reduce the extent of personal injury sustained as a result – including severe head trauma and long-term brain damage. While we have seen a downward trend with regard to overall motor vehicle fatalities, that same downward trend hasn’t been observed with regard to motorcycle injuries and fatalities. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcyclists are 35 times more likely to experience a fatal crash than those in passenger vehicles.
Roughly 88,000 motorcyclists are seriously injured each year and another 4,800 are killed.
Head injury is the No. 1 cause of death in motorcycle crashes and a rider who is not wearing a helmet is about 40 percent more likely to die of a head injury than someone who isn’t wearing one.
So the move by the Tennessee legislators seems a bit baffling.
HB 0894, the Liberty Restoration Act, would first of all raise the fee for issuing or renewing a motorcycle license by $2. That money would then be funneled into the state’s Medicaid program (presumably to help cover the cost of the increasing number of motorcyclists who will be suffering injuries as a result of the relaxed helmet law).
As it stands right now, the law requires any and all riders of motorcycles, motorized bicycles or motor-driven cycles to wear a helmet. Under the new measure, the helmet law would only apply to drivers and passengers who are younger than 21 years old.
Those who choose not to wear a helmet under the new law would pay a $50 fee and obtain a special permitting sticker that would be affixed to the motorcycle.
Additionally, the state health department would be required to prepare an extensive report measuring and comparing the cost of Tennessee motorcycle accidents involving those wearing helmets and those not wearing helmets. This report would also indicate whether another driver caused the crash, whether the other driver was insured and cases in which liability for the accident remained undetermined.
AAA has come out in strong opposition to this measure, saying it would undermine continued efforts to promote motorcycle safety and reduce serious injuries and deaths stemming from motorcycle crashes.
Tennessee is right now one of 19 states in the country that requires motorcyclists to wear helmets.
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, contact our Tennessee car accident lawyers at (423) 464-7779.