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Bicycle and Motorcycle Helmets Save Lives

Co-authored by Jacob Exline of The Collins Law Firm, P.C.

Bike-riding is one of the most popular hobbies in the summer. Whether it be a bicycle or a motorcycle, it is one of the best ways to get outside and enjoy the sun. Riding a bike isn't all care-free and ease, though, as it comes with dangers when both drivers and bikers alike aren't attentive. In 2012 (the most recent year with data available), Illinois ranked fifth in the nation in bicyclist fatalities.1 Between 2010 and 2012, there were 80 deaths in Illinois in bike-related accidents. California was first with 338. Bicycle fatalities rose by 16% between 2010 and 2012, while motor vehicle deaths rose by only 1%. This speaks to the vulnerability of bicyclists who travel on the street.

One of the best ways to keep yourself safe while going on a bike ride is to wear a helmet. Unfortunately, Illinois does not have a state law that requires a helmet for bicyclists. There are a few cities, such as Barrington, Cicero and Skokie, that require children under the age of 16 to wear helmets, but there are no such laws for adults.2 Chicago requires that bike messengers of all ages wear helmets, but only while on duty. The same goes for motorcyclists. There is no federal or state law that requires a rider or a passenger to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle. Illinois repealed its helmet law in 1970 and it has not been reopened since.3

According to a study that spans from 1990 to 2000, wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle greatly decreases the chance for brain injury and also diminishes the likelihood there will be a head or spine injury.4 The same goes for bicycles. Between 1996 and 2005, 97% of those killed during bike accidents were not wearing helmets.5

Helmets are only the first line of safety when riding on the road. Bicyclists are expected to obey the same rules of traffic as automobiles. If you stay alert and respect the rules as well as vehicles around you, teamwork between cars and bikes will lead to less accidents and less injuries.

1 Chicago Tribune - "Illinois Fifth in Nation for Bicycle Deaths" (October 27, 2014)

2 Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute - "Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders" (April 19, 2015)

3 Governor's Highway Safety Association - "Helmet Laws" (June 2015)

4 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Costs of Injuries Resulting from  Motorcycle Crashes: A Literature Review" (November 2002)

5 Livestrong.com - "Statistics for Helmet Safety" (October 27, 2013)

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