Statement in support of motorcycle helmet laws

The following statement was originally developed by the Subcommittee on Injury Prevention and Control of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on Trauma and published in the February 2001 issue of the Bulletin. The ACS Board of Regents approved this updated statement at its February 2015 meeting.

Total care of the trauma patient includes endorsement of measures designed to prevent or reduce injuries. Regarding the use of motorcycle helmets, the ACS recognizes the following:

  • Helmets reduce the risk of death and head injury in motorcycle riders who crash.
  • It is estimated that between 1982 and 2001, more than 12,000 motorcyclists lost their lives as a result of not using a helmet.
  • Unhelmeted motorcyclists are 40 percent more likely than a helmeted rider to sustain a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a non-fatal injury.
  • Helmeted motorcycle riders have up to an 85 percent reduced incidence of serious, severe, and critical brain injuries compared with unhelmeted riders.
  • Motorcyclists with a brain injury incur average inpatient health care costs that are more than twice the costs incurred by hospitalized motorcyclists without a brain injury.
  • A large portion of the economic burden of motorcycle crashes is borne by the public.
  • When universal helmet use laws are enacted, helmet use increases to nearly 100 percent, and fatalities and serious injuries decrease.
  • When universal helmet use laws are repealed, helmet use decreases and fatality and serious brain injury rates increase.

Therefore, the ACS supports efforts to enact and sustain universal helmet laws for motorcycle riders.


Bellal J, Anderson KT, Rhee P, et al. Universal helmet laws reduce traumatic brain injuries in young motorcyclists. Available at: Accessed March 16, 2015.

Coben JH, Steiner CA, Miller TR. Characteristics of motorcycle-related hospitalizations: Comparing states with different helmet laws. Accident Analysis Prev. 2007;39(1):190-196.

Croce MA, Zarzaur BL, Magnotti LJ, Fabian TC. Impact of motorcycle helmets and state laws on society’s burden—a national study. Ann Surg. 2009;250(3):390-439.

Cummings P, Rivara FP, Olson CM, Smith KM. Changes in traffic crash mortality rates attributed to use of alcohol, or lack of a seat belt, air bag, motorcycle helmet or bicycle helmet, United States, 1982–2001. Inj Prev. 2006;12(3):148-154.

Hooten KG, Murad GJA. Helmeted vs nonhelmeted: A retrospective review of outcomes from 2-wheeled vehicle accidents at a Level 1 trauma center. Clin Neurosurg. 2012;59:126-130.

Hundley JC, Kilgo PD, Miller PR, et al. Non-helmeted motorcyclists: A burden to society? A study using the National Trauma Data Bank. J Trauma. 2004;57(5):944-949.

Kraus JF, Peek C, McArthur DL, Williams A. The effect of the 1992 California motorcycle helmet usage law on motorcycle crash fatalities and injuries. JAMA. 1992;272:1506-1511.

Liu BC, Ivers R, Norton R, et al. Helmets for preventing injury in motorcycle riders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD004333.

Max W, Stark B, Root S. Putting a lid on injury costs: The economic impact of the California motorcycle helmet law. J Trauma. 1998;45(3):550-556.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic safety facts. Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws. DOT HS 810 887W. January 2008. Available at: Accessed March 16, 2015.

United States General Accounting Office: Highway Safety: Motorcycle Hemet Laws Save Lives and Reduce Costs to Society. (GAO/RCED-91-170). Washington DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, July 1991.

Watson GA, Zador PL, Wilks A. The repeal of helmet use laws and increased motorcycle mortality in the United States (1975–1978). Am J Pub Health. 1980;70(6):579-585.

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