A bill proposed that would mandate all adult motorcyclists to wear a helmet outside city limits was recently defeated by the Montana state legislature. Given the safety concerns regarding helmet usage and riders injured in motorcycle accidents, the proposed bill would mandate that motorcyclists of all ages wear helmets or face a $50 fine.
Does Montana Have a Motorcycle Helmet Law?
Montana currently requires only those under the age of 18 to wear helmets while operating a motorcycle. Meaning, all adult motorcyclists can legally operate a motorcycle without wearing a helmet whether in the city or on the highway.
However, Montana has not always permitted motorcyclists to ride without helmets. Prior to 1977, Montana enacted a motorcycle helmet law which was quickly repealed due to concerns about personal freedom.
Do Motorcycle Helmets Save Lives?
However, motorcycle helmets play a significant role in preventing catastrophic motorcycle accidents by protecting the riders' heads from traumatic injury.
The NHTSA estimates that 1,872 lives were saved in 2017 by the use of motorcycle helmets.
There is little question that the repeal of Montana’s motorcycle helmet law has caused needless injuries and deaths for bikers.
Are Motorcycle Helmet Laws Effective?
According to a Consumer Reports study, in states where mandatory helmet laws are passed, helmet usage is nearly 100%. The effectiveness of motorcycle helmet laws is so undeniable, that in 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all states enact mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists.
Unfortunately, helmet usage typically declines in states, like Montana, where such laws do not exist. The Montana Highway Patrol has noted that only 40-50% of Montana motorcyclists injured in crashes wore a helmet.
Montana’s Resistance to Laws Mandating Motorcycle Helmet Use
The recent legislative effort to require helmets followed the same fate as previous attempts to change the law. For instance, in 2007, another universal motorcycle helmet law was quickly defeated in the Montana state legislature.
Some opponents of motorcycle helmet laws claim that laws mandating motorcycle helmet use infringe on personal freedom. Others complain that helmets are uncomfortable, too hot to wear in the summer, or unsafe because they limit visibility.
The opponents of motorcycle helmet laws, however, ignore the data and tremendous social costs imposed on society due to catastrophic or fatal motorcycle accidents. Various groups around Montana, including hospitals, public safety advocates, and personal injury lawyers, argue that mandatory helmet laws reduce the severity of costly head injuries, minimize disabilities and keep motorcycle accident victims off of Medicaid and other public assistance problems.
It is indisputable that helmets help save lives and that the benefits to public safety far outweigh the costs of personal freedom.
Recent High Profile Motorcycle Accidents
There have recently been a number of high-profile motorcycle accidents in Montana and around the country that have raised debate about the need for enacting helmet laws.
A Republican state lawmaker who opposed helmet laws was fatally injured in a tragic motorcycle accident when a truck turned unexpectedly turned left into his lane. He was killed even though he wore a helmet.
Last summer, an off-duty sheriff was critically injured in a motorcycle accident near Missoula, Montana, when he was not wearing a helmet.
Despite these high-profile accidents, there simply does not appear to be much political will in Montana to impose mandatory helmet laws.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? Call Hoyt and Blewett Today.
If you were injured while riding a motorcycle due to the negligence of another vehicle, you likely have a claim against the responsible driver regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. The motorcycle accident lawyers at Hoyt and Blewett have been representing bikers injured in Missoula and across the state of Montana for decades. If you have been injured, you owe it to yourself to contact Montana personal injury lawyers at Hoyt and Blewett for a free consultation.