NTSB Recommends Mandatory DOT-Compliant Motorcycle Helmets

The National Transportation Safety Board yesterday issued recommendations to states to require all motorcyclists and their passengers to wear Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218-compliant helmets.

Currently, DOT reports, only 20 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have universal helmet laws requiring all riders to wear a helmet. Twenty-seven states and one territory have partial laws that require minors and/or passengers to wear such helmets. Three states have no helmet laws.

"The facts are very clear, head injuries are a leading cause of deaths in motorcycle crashes," said NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. "The most important step riders can take in terms of protecting themselves and staying alive is to wear a DOT-compliant helmet every time they ride."

FMVSS 218-compliant helmets are designed with a hard outer shell, an impact-attenuating liner, and a retention system to protect the head, especially the brain, in a variety of impact scenarios.

"Universal helmet laws have proven effective in the mitigation of injuries and the prevention of fatalities. Implementing these recommendations will take strong leadership in the states," Rosenker added.

Since 1997, motorcycle fatalities have increased 127 percent. Last year, 4,810 motorcyclists died in crashes, and accounted for more than 10 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities.

Last September, NTSB held a public forum and gathered information on ongoing motorcycle research and initiatives, as well as countermeasures that may reduce the likelihood of motorcycle accidents and fatalities. The meeting included participants representing government, motorcycle manufacturers, motorcyclist associations, state motorcycle rights organizations, researchers, trauma physicians, law enforcement, and insurance companies.

Full copies of the recommendation letters will be available soon at www.ntsb.gov.

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