Louisiana motorcycle fatalities in the wake of governmentally implemented change: A retrospective analysis of the motorcycle morbidity and mortality before, during, and after the repeal of a statewide helmet mandate

From the Department of Neurosurgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana.
The journal of trauma and acute care surgery 06/2013; 74(6):1559-66. DOI: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31829247c4
Source: PubMed


On August 15, 2004, Louisiana's universal motorcycle helmet mandate was reinstated. Previous studies have shown that mortality and morbidity of motorcycle riders who crashed had increased during the 5 years the mandate was repealed. The objective of this study was to discern whether the reinstatement of the universal helmet mandate has resulted in a subsequent decrease in motorcycle-related mortality and morbidity in the state of Louisiana.
A retrospective analysis was performed observing the regularity of helmet use and the associated morbidity and mortality of motorcycle traffic accidents from the time before, during, and after the universal motorcycle helmet mandate was repealed in the state of Louisiana. Fatality statistics were obtained through the National Highway Safety Traffic Association. Injury, helmet use, and collision data were obtained from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. Motorcycle registration data were obtained from the Federal Highway Administration.
Motorcycle crash-related fatalities increased significantly when the statewide helmet mandate was repealed, and interestingly, after reinstatement, these fatality rates never returned to their previous lows. Motorcycle fatalities have increased out of proportion to the increase in motorbike registrations, even when yearly fatalities are normalized to fatalities per 10,000 registered bikes. An all-time high in fatalities was seen in 2006, a year subsequent to the mandate's reinstatement. Fatalities per collision were elevated significantly after the mandate's repeal but did not return to prerepeal lows after the mandate's reinstatement.
Although helmet use after reinstatement has reached all-time highs, fatality rates have remained elevated since the original mandate repeal in 1999. Other achievable changes in state policy and law enforcement should be explored to quell this heightened risk to motorcycle enthusiasts in Louisiana, and states considering changing their own motorcycle helmet legislation should observe keenly the aftermath of both a mandate repeal and reinstatement.
Epidemiological study, level IV.

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