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Good weather, along with the higher cost of gas, will
make the number of motorcycles on our state highways increase. The
problem is Illinois does not have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law.
Our state lawmakers, listening to the demands of some claiming that
motorcycle helmet laws are a violation of the Constitution, have
failed to act on this important issue.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld motorcycle helmet use laws
under the U.S. Constitution since 1972: "The public has an interest
in minimizing the resources directly involved. From the moment of
injury, society picks the person up off the highway; delivers him to
a municipal hospital and municipal doctors; provides him with
unemployment compensation if, after recovery, he cannot replace his
lost job; and, if the injury causes permanent disability, may assume
responsibility for his and his family's subsistence. We do not
understand a state of mind that permits the plaintiff to think that
only he himself is concerned." Still the Illinois General Assembly
has not passed a motorcycle helmet law.
In 1998 it was reported 49,000 motorcyclists were injured and
2,284 were killed in traffic crashes in the U.S. The risk for
motorcyclists is three times greater to be injured and 14 times more
likely to die than a car occupant. The unhelmeted riders in traffic
crashes incur higher health care costs, and many lack health
insurance. The unhelmeted rider has 25 percent greater inpatient
hospital charges than motorcyclists who wear a helmet. The National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports, "Motorcycles make up
less than 2 percent of all registered vehicles and only 0.4 percent
of all vehicle miles traveled, but motorcyclists account for 6
percent of traffic deaths."
Helmets are approximately 29 percent effective in preventing
fatal injuries. An unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to
suffer a fatal brain injury and 15 percent more likely to incur a
nonfatal brain injury than a helmeted motorcyclist. NHTSA estimates
helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing this injury type.
Helmets save lives and prevent serious brain injuries.
This past year, Sen. John J. Cullerton sponsored a bill in the
Illinois Senate "requiring every operator and passenger on a
motorcycle, motor-driven vehicle or motorized pedalcycle to wear a
helmet." When this bill was referred to the Rules Committee, ABATE
saw it as a victory. As long as our state lawmakers bend to the
wishes of those who oppose a helmet law, they will fail to do the
right thing and pass a helmet law for motorcyclists. This inaction
on the part of our lawmakers is costing you money. The public must
bear most of the costs from the deaths and disabilities of
unhelmeted riders. The costs of emergency medical services,
hospitalization, rehabilitation, welfare benefits and lost
productivity are some of the hidden costs the public has to pay.
[to top of second column in this letter]
Only two states have a law requiring unhelmeted motorcyclists to
carry at least $10,000 of hospitalization insurance. Fifty percent
of motorcycle crash victims do not have private health insurance.
Medicaid and other public-assisted health care funds help pay the
bills. The initial hospitalization for the injured motorcyclist
averages more than $15,000. In a study by NHTSA, "The average cost
for inpatient care for persons who sustained a brain injury was more
than twice the average charge for persons receiving inpatient care
for other injuries, and that does not include long-term medical
costs." If the Illinois General Assembly will not pass a 100 percent
motorcycle helmet law, they should pass a law requiring that
unhelmeted motorcyclists carry at least $10,000 of hospitalization
Unless we who believe the time has come for a helmet law make it
known to our state senators, state representatives and the governor,
it will not become a reality. We need to tell our lawmakers that
there are Illinoisans who care about the safety and life of
motorcyclists and who support a helmet law.
I am a brain injury survivor. I know firsthand how a brain injury
can change your life. It affects every aspect of your life and your
family's life. Helmets will not stop all brain injuries for
motorcyclists, but they will play an important part in decreasing
the number of brain injuries and fatalities resulting from
motorcycle accidents. Brain injuries are costly and they last a
lifetime. The average cost for medical treatment of a
motorcycle-accident-related brain injury is $43,000, with an annual
cost of serving a brain-injured patient in an inpatient setting of
It is time for the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Blagojevich
to pass a 100 percent all-rider helmet law for Illinois. It will
save lives and save millions of dollars on the state's budget each
year. Please write or call your state senators, state
representatives and Gov. Blagojevich today, telling them that you
want Illinois to put an end to this needless cost in lives and
dollars each year. It is time for them to do what is right for
Illinois and pass a helmet law.
Advocate for brain injury awareness
(Posted May 22, 2006)
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