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posted: 8/26/2014 7:39 AM

Motorcycle helmets save lives

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Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital

Beautiful, crisp fall days on the horizon mean long motorcycle rides on hilly country roads enticing motorcycle riders to feel the wind in their hair. Correction, for a safe ride, that should be wind on their helmet.

A report from the National Transportation and Safety Board found that helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists' lives in 2008, and that 823 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, but there is no motorcycle helmet use law in three states, including Illinois.

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The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), the professional society representing the medical specialists who often treat these types of injuries, shared a formal position statement strongly supporting universal helmet laws. Their statement says that "AAOS believes a significant reduction in fatalities and head injuries could be affected through the implementation of laws mandating the use of helmets by all motorcycle and bicycle drivers and passengers."

According to a recent CDC study, in 2010, the 4,502 motorcyclists (operators and passengers) killed in motorcycle crashes made up 14 percent of all road traffic deaths, yet motorcycles accounted for less than 1 percent of all vehicle miles traveled.

Additional CDC data reports that:

Twelve percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not wearing helmets.

In comparison, 64 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with partial helmet laws.

Seventy-nine percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws.

According to Dr. Priyesh Patel, an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., wearing a helmet does, in fact, save lives.

"Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is not a 'cure-all' for motorcyclist safety, but in a crash, it can help protect your brain, your face and your life," Dr. Patel says. "The research strongly shows that helmets make a difference so if you want to continue those motorcycle rides on the windy, country roads, I strongly suggest being safe when riding."

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