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Motorcycle helmet laws remain controversial

Regulators continue to struggle with motorcycle safety laws as catastrophic injuries and fatality rates remain high in most states.

Nationwide, fatality rates on the roadways are down, but motorcycle accident rates are up. Despite this, helmet laws in many states have weakened or disappeared entirely. Only nineteen states have blanket helmet laws. Others require only minors riding motorcycles to wear helmets but permit adults to ride without.

The CDC found that fives times as many motorcyclists who do not wear helmets die in accidents compared with those that do. Experts say that wearing a helmet is the closest thing to a "silver bullet" for preventing catastrophic injuries and deaths for motorcycle riders.However, helmets do not themselves prevent accidents from happening and riders are still widely exposed during an accident and are susceptible to brain and spinal cord injuries.

Motorcycle rider lobby groups insist that the choice not to wear a helmet is a matter of personal liberty for consenting adults who know the risks. Riders also argue that cars and trucks are not adequately attentive to motorcyclists, which negligently causes accidents and injuries.

However, advocates for stronger helmet laws point to the high costs incurred by the public in the form of medical care and lost worker productivity and argue that the issue is of national concern.

Helmet laws are often compared to seatbelt laws, which were once controversial but are now widely accepted as a public safety effort.

What do you think - should motorcyclists be required to wear a helmet, or is it a choice best left to individuals?

Source: PBS, "Why Rise in Motorcycle Deaths Hasn't Meant Tougher Helmet Laws," Judy Woodruff, June 19, 2012

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