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Does Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet Decrease Vision?


Motorcycle riders are among the most vulnerable individuals on our public roads and highways. With virtually no protection against passenger vehicles and trucks, motorcyclists face immensely high risks of suffering injuries in auto accidents, including catastrophic injuries, brain injuries, and death. As these risks are so pronounced, safety advocates across the nation have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the importance of wearing helmets while riding, and to encourage lawmakers to pass laws that require helmet use.

Today, there are 19 states across the country that require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet when on public roads. In 28 other states, there are laws that require only certain riders to wear helmets. Texas, falls in this category, as it only requires helmets to be worn by motorcyclists who are under the age of 20.

Statistics gathered over the years have shown that motorcycle helmets help reduce the number of injuries and deaths sustained by riders involved in motorcycle accidents. Not only has there been better documentation about the benefits of helmets as helmet use has increased over the years, safety agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have accumulated a great deal of data to support their arguments for universal helmet laws:

  • In 2015, helmets save the lives of an estimated 1,772 riders
  • 740 deaths could have been prevented in 2015 had all riders been wearing helmets
  • Helmet use decreases risk of death by 37%, and the risk of head injury by 69%

Despite these statistics, more than half of U.S. states do not enforce universal helmet laws, or laws that require riders of all ages to wear a safety helmet. This is due largely to efforts made by opponents who raise various arguments as to why wearing a helmet should be a personal choice. One of the most common among these is that motorcycle helmets can decrease vision and therefore increase risks faced by riders.

As vulnerable motorists, motorcyclists rely on being extra vigilant in order to protect themselves against other vehicle that fail to see them. According to ant-helmet proponents, the ability to see and hear fully is essential to being aware of one’s surroundings, and is inhibited when a person wears a helmet.

According to several studies, including one study conducted by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (The Effect of Motorcycle Helmets on Seeing and Hearing), researchers found that helmet use does not negatively impact the hearing or vision of motorcyclists. This includes no negative impact in the ability to visually detect vehicles in adjacent lanes prior to lane changes and no negative impact to detecting sounds of traffic when traveling at normal highway speeds. Riders were still able to detect other motorists by turning their heads further than if they had no helmet, without an impact to their balance and without any added time.

The debate of helmet laws will likely continue for as long as the issue can be politicized. In Texas, riders ultimately have the choice of whether they wish to wear a helmet or not, and having the facts about their benefits in reducing risks and clarification about misinformation and negative claims can aid them in making informed decisions. Regardless of the laws, motorcycle helmets can and do save lives and prevent tragic injuries, and riders who wish to protect themselves on the road can do so by wearing a helmet.

At Scott H. Palmer, P.C., our Addison personal injury lawyers have handled many motorcycle accident cases, including those with severe and tragic consequences. We encourage riders to wear helmets, but know that it cannot prevent all injuries, especially when other motorists are negligent. When riders are harmed by others through no fault of their own, they can exercise their legal right to pursue the compensation they need and deserve. Contact us if you wish to discuss a recent motorcycle wreck during a consultation.

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