Helmet Use, Inexperience and Motorcycle Accidents Resulting in Injury

New Hampshire’s Laconia Motorcycle Week begins this Saturday, June 14 and ends Sunday, June 22. With this event, the number of motorcyclists in New Hampshire will increase. Over the past ten years, the number of motorcyclists nationally has increased by almost 3 million. With the increase in the number of motorcyclists, there has been an increase in the number of motorcycle accidents, injuries and fatalities. As personal injury lawyers serving both New Hampshire and Vermont, we have represented motorcycle enthusiasts who were severely injured in motorcycle accidents. Though some might argue otherwise, statistics show that wearing a helmet while riding can increase your chances of survival and reduce the possibilities of severe head trauma in the event of an accident. It is also important to have formal training prior to riding a motorcycle to reduce your chances of injury.

Though Vermont requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, New Hampshire has no laws with respect to helmets, making it one of only three states without such laws. Many riders dispute the fact that helmets may prevent injuries and fatalities; however, statistics show a reduced number of head injuries and fatalities among riders who do wear helmets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets saved more than 1,658 lives in 2006. In 2006, 4,810 people died in motorcycle accidents. The NHTSA estimates that there could have been as many as 800 fewer fatalities in 2006 if the victims wore helmets. Furthermore, in 1995 the federal government ceased its policy of withholding highway funds from states without helmet laws. Since then, the number of riders wearing helmets has decreased yearly and the rate of fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles has increased from 55.82 in 1996 to 71.94 in 2006.

Another leading factor in motorcycle accidents is inexperienced riders. In 2006, the NHTSA studied 900 motorcycle accidents in the Los Angeles area. Of the 900 accidents, the majority of riders could be considered inexperienced because they had no formal training on how to ride a motorcycle. 91% percent of the riders involved in the studied accidents were self-taught or they had friends or family members teach them how to ride. Also, more than half of the riders involved in the 900 accidents had less than five months experience riding their motorcycle.

In anticipation of this month’s Laconia Motorcycle Week, the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency is holding a safety awareness campaign to educate motorcyclists and other motorists. The campaign includes handing out bumper stickers and a rally at the statehouse. The campaign will focus on safe driving practices including urging the public to maintain safe following distances, to be mindful of motorcyclists, and to avoid drinking and driving. The campaign will also focus on encouraging motorcyclists to attend a Motorcycle Rider Training Program offered by the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles, or through one of two private companies that offer a similar course. The course offers instruction on stopping, avoiding collisions, shifting, turning and the benefits of wearing helmet. Of the 64,000 registered motorcycles in New Hampshire, only 3000 have people participated in the classes offered by the state, and only 650 have participated in the private motorcycle courses. The attorneys at Van Dorn & Curtiss recommend you always use safe riding practices.

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