Issues of motorcycle safety in Illinois have sometimes appeared before Illinois courts. Many people don't know that Illinois did have a helmet law at one time. In 1968 to 1969, Illinois did have a helmet law requiring riders to wear protective head gear on their motorcycles as a way of safeguarding their personal safety in the event of a motorcycle accident, but it was challenged in the Illinois Supreme Court, People v. Fries, 142 Ill.2d 446 (1969). The Court found that the Illinois motorcycle helmet law was an abuse of police power and was unconstitutional. A later 1986 Illinois Supreme Court decision overturned the Peoples v. Fries ruling, but no helmet law has since made its way into law (Peoples v. Kohrig, 113 Ill.2d 384).
Depending on your point of view, both side of the helmet law debate have some very valid points. Those on the pro helmet law side have compared it to the use of seat belts in automobiles and child safety seats for children in automobiles. If you are forced to wear or use protective equipment in an automobile, shouldn't you have to do the same if you operate a motorcycle? In some circumstances, however, it's not just the motorcyclist who is paying for their mishaps. As an example, in 2008, Americans spent $1.2 million every time a motorcyclist was seriously injured, according to the Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They estimated Illinois could have saved $65.3 million in 2008 if 100 percent of riders had been helmeted.
Much of this cost is attached to Medicaid and Medicare that are paid for by the citizens of the state as well as nationally. Helmet proponents say some, if not all, motorcyclists should be required to strap on a helmet before heading out on the road. Much of the public agrees — more than 80 percent of drivers think helmets should be required, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That's not good news for bikers who already fear that helmet mandates are on the horizon.
Of the 133 motorcycle-related deaths in Illinois in 2008, 37 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had been wearing helmets, according National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Un-helmeted motorcyclists made up three-fourths of the fatalities. The figures for 2010 are statistically in line with the last couple years. It is proven that motorcycle fatalities have fallen in states that have adopted helmet laws. California saw a 37 percent drop in deaths the year they began requiring helmets.
Much of the credit for not having a helmet law in Illinois should be given to A.B.A.T.E otherwise known as "A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education." Taken from the A.B.A.T.E website, their mission statement is as follows: "The mission of the members of A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois is to preserve the universal right to a safe, unrestricted motorcycling environment, and to propose and advocate actions that can be taken by elected and appointed officials to protect and conserve the natural resources of the State of Illinois, and ensure through professional management that sustainable use, recreational opportunities and enjoyment of these new resources is available for this and future generations." Often mistaken for a group who is negative, A.B.A.T.E. is one of the best advocates for motorcyclists. They are for the education of motorcycle and automobile riders and are also heavily involved in politics in the State of Illinois. Without a doubt, A.B.A.T.E. is the best lobbyist group in the state, often supporting and volunteering for their candidates in election years, in order to further their goals and agendas. This group is the reason Illinois remains one of three in the nation without a helmet law. Their mottos include: "Educate, don't legislate and Let those who ride decide."
Whatever your decision is, it is certainly difficult to ignore the facts and statistics of motorcycle injuries and deaths. Over 75% of all motorcycle accident happen in front of you. To be more specific, these accidents happen between the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions as you would look at a clock in front of you. Many of these accidents are the result of a vehicle turning in front of the motorcyclist. In Illinois, only two of the 131 motorcyclists killed in 2010 wore a DOT-compliant helmet; 19 motorcyclists wore a helmet that was not DOT-compliant. These 21 fatalities constitute 16% of Illinois motorcycle rider fatalities in 2010. The facts speak for themselves. As a 30 year motorcycle rider and educator in the field, I have always worn my helmet and it has undoubtedly saved my. Take the time and enroll in a motorcycle safety class at Illinois State if you are interested in learning more.