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Tennessee helmet law changes may increase risk of injuries

As the weather warms up, Tennessee motorcyclists might choose to ride their motorcycles more often. However, as motorcycle use increases, Tennessee doctors also see a rise in serious motorcycle accidents and injuries. This is not unusual; medical staff at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville report that warm weather typically results in a 50 percent increase in patients with major injuries, including motorcycle injuries.

With the number of injured motorcyclists already high, VUMC's trauma surgeons reported that they were concerned over potential changes to the state's helmet laws. The law changes would make wearing helmets optional for all riders who are over the age of 21. In states that have already made changes to their helmet laws, such as neighboring Kentucky, the rate of motorcycle fatalities has risen. In Kentucky, the fatality rate rose by more than 50 percent, with 53 of the 79 motorcyclists killed in 2013 not wearing helmets. In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that Tennessee's helmet laws saved the lives of 46 people.

One of the VUMC doctors also mentioned that helmet laws reduce the cost of medical care for taxpayers by reducing the risk of life-changing injuries. Additionally, the NHTSA estimated that helmet laws reduce the risk of death by approximately 37 percent and reduce the risk of brain trauma by about 65 percent. This potentially saves tax payers about $3 billion every year.

Often, a motorist may not see a motorcycle, or they may misjudge the distance when making a turn, causing a crash. An attorney could help an injured motorcyclist file a personal injury lawsuit against the other motorist if the plaintiff was following the state's helmet laws and not driving recklessly or negligently. A successful claim can help a victim recover compensation for the motorcycle accident injuries and other damages they incurred.

Source: WBKO, "Vanderbilt Trauma Surgeons See Increase in Motorcycle Crashes with Springtime Weather," Jennifer Wetzel, March 20, 2015

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