New Hampshire is one of only three U.S. states that do not require motorcyclists of any age to wear helmets when they ride. Illinois and Iowa have similar no-helmet-required rules. In the other 47 states, however, at least some riders are required to wear helmets, and 27 states require all motorcyclists to wear them. In recent years, motorcyclists in several states have begun protesting their state’s helmet laws, leading legislators in several states to consider helmet law reform.
Supporters of motorcycle helmet laws point to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and other research groups that predict a motorcyclist increases his or her chances of surviving a serious crash by 37 percent if he or she wears a helmet, and the severity of head injuries also decreases if a motorcyclist wears a helmet, which can lead to quicker recovery and less long-term impairment. Supporters also point to the increase in medical costs and insurance premiums for all those covered, as the health care and insurance systems attempt to compensate for the expensive care required when an uninsured motorcyclist suffers serious head injuries.
Opponents of mandatory helmet laws, however, say that the decision whether or not to wear a helmet is a choice that ought to be left to each individual motorcyclist as a matter of personal freedom. They note that bikers who choose not to wear helmets can purchase additional insurance to cover their increased risks on the road, which makes the costs the biker’s responsibility instead of society’s. Michigan is considering a change that would require motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets to pay for insurance coverage of at least $100,000 in case of injury.