Pennsylvania study: Helmetless motorcycle riders at greater risk
A leading trauma center in Pittsburgh says greater numbers of motorcyclists with more serious facial and head injuries are seeking emergency medical treatment since Pennsylvania repealed its helmet law.
The volume of patients brought to Allegheny General Hospital for treatment of facial injuries after motorcycle crashes nearly doubled in the past five years, doctors there say.
An increasing number of cyclists require care and sometimes lengthy hospital stays for facial trauma, including bone fractures. AGH reports the number of riders without helmets brought in for motorcycle-related facial injuries was 122 from September 2003 to August 2008, up from 10 from 1998 to September 2003.
"Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is just risky behavior," said Dr. Joseph E. Cillo, an AGH oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Pennsylvania repealed its universal motorcycle helmet law in 2003. Only motorcyclists under 21 and riders with less than two years of experience who have not taken a safety course are required to wear helmets.
Cillo and three other AGH physicians authored a review detailing the spike and presented it last month during the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons' annual meeting in Toronto.
Mick Morrow, president of the Pittsburgh-based War Dogs Motorcycle Club, said his group supports riders' rights to choose whether to wear a helmet. He doesn't think helmets are always effective in preventing injuries. A helmet's weight can add pressure to the neck if the head is hit a certain way, he said, and helmets can restrict some riders' vision and limit their ability to turn their heads.
"The rider is unable to see potential problems as quickly as they might without the helmet," Morrow said. "A split-second can make the difference between an accident and avoiding an accident."
The Pennsylvania chapters of the Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education, or ABATE, helped persuade lawmakers to change the restriction. David Tuschel, spokesman for ABATE's Pittsburgh chapter, said riders should be free to decide whether to go helmetless, but he conceded safety instruction can be improved.
"More emphasis needs to be more on avoiding crashes than on injuries and on who's wearing what," Tuschel said.
Last year, 239 motorcyclists in Pennsylvania were killed in crashes, up from 158 in 2004, the first full year of the repeal, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Of those who died last year, 113 were wearing helmets, compared with 117 who were not.
In 2003, 153 people died in motorcycle accidents. Of them, 121 wore helmets and 29 did not. Authorities were unsure if the others had head gear. Hospital officials say helmetless riders usually require medical helicopter flights from crash scenes because their injuries are more severe than those riding with helmets.
State officials said they are studying exactly how much treatment for such head injuries has impacted public health costs since 2003.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Electricity rates expected to increase this winter
- Pirates’ 5-game winning streak ends with 1-0 loss to Brewers
- Vandergrift Arts & Crafts Festival brings community together, shows off the town
- WVU falls short against OU
- Former drug dealer, addict give away groceries as part of church’s outreach
- Gas industry remedies ‘brain drain’ in Western Pennsylvania
- Scout’s kiosk to tell brave woman’s tale
- Penn State rolls past Massachusetts
- Paying tuition a challenge as costs skyrocket and aid varies
- North Versailles restaurant, dance studio damaged in crash
- SWAT team responds to incident in Edgeworth