Vanderbilt Medical Center Opposes Repeal of State’s Motorcycle Helmet Law


‘s Legislature is again seriously considering a repeal of the state’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law for adults. The bill, House Bill 456, has clear the Legislature’s Finance Committee is up for vote tomorrow.

The physicians and staff at
strongly oppose the repeal of this life-saving, money-saving law for a variety of reasons, especially in this time of rising numbers of medically uninsured in


, and rising health care costs borne by all the state’s citizens.

“Numerous studies have proven motorcycle helmets save lives and hold down health care costs. From the standpoint of public safety, and from a financial perspective, the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law just doesn’t make sense,” said Corey Slovis, M.D., chairman of Vanderbilt’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “A repeal of this law makes about as much sense as repealing the state’s seatbelt or child safety seat laws.”

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), per mile driven, motorcyclists are 16 times more likely to die in a crash than an automobile driver. Wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces that risk by almost one-third (29 percent).

NHTSA figures also indicate that head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Riders who do not wear helmets, and who experience a crash, are 40 percent more likely to sustain a fatal head injury.

Presently, the state’s Level 1 trauma centers provide about $5 million of health care each year to brain-injured motorcyclists.

VUMC researchers estimate a repeal of this law will result in a minimum 30 percent increase in health care costs, or another $1.3 million per year for these patients to be provided by the state’s Level 1 trauma centers. This figure does not include other substantial costs for this patient population such as associated hospital charges from community hospitals, rehabilitation care, in some instances long term care such as nursing home care, and loss of income to the patient and family during recovery.

Lessons learned from other states that have repealed their motorcycle helmet laws include: 1) reduced helmet use by all riders, 2) increase in the death rate, 3) increase costs per injury and the hospital length of stay. For these reasons seven states that repealed the motorcycle helmet requirement have now reinstated the requirement.