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Deadly Pennsylvania Motorcycle Accidents On The Rise

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Back in 2003, Pennsylvania legislatures repealed the universal helmet law, loosening the requirements to wear a helmet. Adults over the age of 21 who have at least two years’ experience riding or have completed a motorcycle safety course approved by either the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation are not required to wear a helmet while operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle. The regulation decreased requirements for skilled adult-riders, but some reports suggest it may have led to an increase in deadly Pennsylvania motorcycle accidents.

Motorcyclists are 35% more likely to die in a crash than those in larger vehicles. During the six years before Pennsylvania’s motorcycle helmet law was amended, there were 122 motorcycle accident deaths per year in PA. Since the passage of the law, the yearly number of PA motorcycle accidents deaths increased to 199, reported York Daily.

Non-fatal motorcycle accident injuries have also increased since the requirements were changed. The Post-Gazette reported on the results of a 2008 University of Pittsburgh study that found a 42% increase in head injuries from motorcycle accidents. Acute care in hospitals increased by 132%.

Head injuries have increased as the use of safety equipment to prevent head injuries decreased. Since there is no longer a law requiring riders to wear a helmet, many are choosing not to wear one per York Daily. One ride said he enjoyed the freedom to decide not to wear a helmet and that the wind in his face was relaxing. The University of Pittsburgh study found that helmet use among motorcyclists in crashes decreased from 82% to 58% in the two years after the repeal.

Charles Umbenhauer, a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania branch of Alliance of Bikers Towards Education, warns that the study fails to account for the number of “unendorsed” riders who can account for a good portion of motorcycle accidents. These “unendorsed” riders are those that are required to wear a helmet — even under the 2003 amendment. These riders are under the age of 21, have less than two years’ experience, or have not completed a safety training course. Umbenhauer told Post-Gazette that a 2013 Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning report showed that more than half of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were unendorsed.

Umbenhauer suggests that another reason for the increase in motorcycle accident deaths, is the increase in motorcycle riders on the roads. Pennsylvania motorcycle registration increased by about 60% from 2002 to 2016. More people on the roads- for any type of motor vehicle- can increase the risk of a collision. York Daily actually suggests that in some recent years, the rate of deaths per registered motorcycle has been lower than the death rate before the helmet-less law.

Whether it’s an experienced riders disregard for safety, and inexperienced driver’s disregard for the law, or an increased number of bikers on the road, something is causing an increased motorcycle accident deaths in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania riders are urged to take the proper safety precautions and all motorists are urged to be mindful of bikers and take care to help prevent Pennsylvania motorcycle accidents.

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