The answer is a resounding no. And here are just a few reasons why.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets prevent roughly 37% of crash-related deaths for drivers and 41% of crash-related deaths for passengers. Not only have motorcycle-related deaths been on the rise since 2000, the costs associated with motorcycle crashes are tremendous. It is estimated that the medical care and productivity losses associated with motorcycle crashes are $12 billion dollars in just a single year.
Despite those sobering numbers, Senator Mike Bell of Riceville, the proponent of the legislation to repeal Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet law, argues Tennessee will enjoy an increase in tourism from motorcycle riders if we do away with the helmet law. He might be right, although I am not aware of any authority he cites for that proposition. But let’s just assume the State might see some additional tourism dollars by repealing the helmet law, it most likely would not be enough to offset the costs associated with repealing the law.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that states with helmet laws have a cost savings of nearly four times that of states without a helmet law. For example, in 2010, California’s helmet law saved the state $394 million in medical care, productivity losses and other costs. The proposed helmet law will need to generate quite a bit of tourism for the bill to make good financial sense.
But let’s face it: a helmet law is not about the money. It is about saving lives and preventing catastrophic brain injuries. It is about doing all we can to make sure individuals and families do not have to go to a loved one’s funeral or watch a promising life be cruelly and inexorably changed due to a brain injury. While the wind does feel good running through your hair, it does not feel as good as coming home safe and sound to your loved ones.
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There are undoubtedly those that will disagree with this post. Before those disagreements hit the comment section, permit me to say this: I rode motorcycles for more than a decade. I enjoyed every minute of every ride. It is a thrill. I have absolutely nothing against motorcycles. All that said, I have seen lots of horrible injuries and deaths and truly believe that injuries and deaths would increase if a no-helmet law was passed. The hassle of wearing a helmet is minimal when compared with the potential to save lives of motorcycle riders.
UPDATE on March 27, 2014.
Tennessee Retains Helmet Law For Motorcyclists
Earlier this week, we told you about Republican Mike Bell’s bill which would have repealed Tennessee’s mandatory helmet law in an effort to increase motorcycle tourism in the State. The bill recently failed to get out of committee. The Senate Finance Committee voted 6-5 against the legislation, which was opposed by Tennessee AAA, Governor Haslam and other safety groups. The legislation is now dead for this year.