Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Illinois Motorcycle Helmet Laws. Constitutional or Not?

Illinois remains one of only 3 states in the United States without a helmet law for motorcyclists.  Although many of the other states have adopted helmet laws, many of them are very lax or what I would consider partial laws.  Colorado and Iowa are the only other states that have no helmet law.

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. 

http://online2.msf-usa.org/msf/Default.aspx

http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles

http://www.abate-il.org/

http://motorcyclesafety.illinoisstate.edu/

10 comments:

  1. Very interesting blog as I am an extreme supporter of helmet as a means of safety. The fact is this, wearing the proper equipment is a better safety mechanisms. In my life I have seen two motorcycle incidents and both resulted in fatalities. The unfortunate thing is that both incidents nobody was wearing a helmet. Illinois is very foolish for not having a law requiring helmet usage by every motorist. Anything can happen on the road and statistics show that it is safer if the motorist is wearing a helmet.
    I understand that demanding someone wear a helmet is a direct violation to a person's opinion on whether it is safe or not. It bothers me that everyone is not gung-ho for wearing a helmet in such a dangerous activity. Wearing a helmet is similar to wearing a seatbelt as it provides the driver with full safety and eliminating the "what-ifs".
    I know if i wear riding a motorcycle safety would be my main priority because my life is important to me. However it is those people who like the thrill and rush of not participating in safe activities.

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  2. Good topic Erik. I have thought many times about whether or not I feel mandatory helmet laws should be implemented within Illinois. I currently work as a firefighter/emt and I have seen two motorcycle fatalities; one with a helmet and one without. I also ride a harley and majority of the time I do not wear a helmet. I know it seems silly to not wear a helmet after seeing two fatalities but I cannot bring myself to wear a helmet every time I ride. I am impartial on the issue. Although I do not readily wear a helmet I would not complain if Illinois mandated wearing a helmet. However, if they do I feel they should be all in with the legislature and not like some states who restrict the helmet laws with ages. There is no arguing with the statistics; Helmets are life savers and should probably be mandated.

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  4. Very interesting. I have known a lot of people that have been hurt while riding motorcycles. I feel very strongly about helmet laws. I feel like they do save a lot of lives depending on the situation and what happens to the motorcyclist. People do need to start seeing motorcycles and motorcycles need to start seeing cars. Nonetheless, interesting topic!

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  5. I for one do not think that helmets should be mandatory. I also do not think that seatbelts should be mandatory either. Both of these view points are for adults only not minors. I believe that once you are an adult you have the right to choose for yourself. I feel like by the legislature telling me I have to wear one they are saying I'm too stupid to make the choice for myself. I think the government has gone too far in telling us what we can and can't do. I think the legislation of "victimless" crimes is asinine. The government thinks it's ok to fly me halfway around the world and throw me into a firefight but I am not capable of deciding whether or not I can wear a helmet. I feel like by mandating these things they are treating us all like children and saying mother knows best. I just think their time could be better spent than worrying about whether or not I'm wearing a helmet or a seatbelt. It is just a way for them to generate revenue; they don't really care about my safety.

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  6. This was a very well written and interesting article. Just as you, I am definitely a supporter of the implementation of mandatory helmet laws in Illinois. I feel that helmets are such an easy and basic method for helping preserve life and the safety of motorcyclists. Therefore, I believe that the pros for making it mandatory far outweigh the cons because of the potential life saving factor that helmets bring. The only reason that I could think of for somebody not wanting to wear a helmet is so that they could look "cool". Therefore, I do not see a valid argument as to why these laws should not be utilized. I understand that it would be a victim less crime but sometimes legislation has to ignore that fact in order to keep individuals safe. Almost every state has mandatory helmet laws and I agree with you that it is time for Illinois to have them also.

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  7. Nice topic Erik. I also own a motorcycle and did a riders safety course. Although I do own a helmet i choose not to wear it except for when riding at night (mostly because of bugs)because i realize that not all drivers are looking for motorcycle or can identify a motorcycle. I am neither for or against a mandatory helmet law. I think it should be a riders decision but can understand the justification for having one. I do feel that it will eventually become mandated and when it is i will follow along and wear a helmet.

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  8. Statistics showing that people who wear helmets are much less likely to suffer serious head injuries, many individuals choose not to protect themselves. There are many reasons children and other bicycle riders or motorcycle riders refuse to wear helmets visit.

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  9. These laws need to be put into place, and they need to be strict! Anyone refusing to wear a helmet, then all you have to do is simply take there licence away, its too risky and without helmets, then surely they cause a higher risk of getting killed. I make sure every time I ride even if I ride with my wife, that she has a women's helmet.

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