Examination of factors associated with use rates after transition from a universal to partial motorcycle helmet use law.Traffic Inj Prev. 2017 01 02; 18(1):95-101.TI
Motorcycle riders account for a disproportionately high number of traffic injuries and fatalities compared to occupants of other vehicle types. Though research has demonstrated the benefits of helmet use in preventing serious and fatal injuries in the event of a crash, helmet use has remained relatively stable in the United States, where the most recent national estimates show a 64% use rate. Use rates have been markedly lower among those states that do not have a universal helmet law for all riders. In 2012, the state of Michigan repealed its longstanding mandatory helmet use law. In order to gain insights as to the effects of this legislative change, a study was conducted to examine short-term changes in helmet use and identify factors associated with use rates.
A statewide direct observation survey was conducted 1 year after the transition from a universal helmet law to a partial helmet law. A random parameters logistic regression model was estimated to identify motorcyclist, roadway, and environmental characteristics associated with helmet use. This modeling framework accounts for both intravehicle correlation (between riders and passengers on the same motorcycle) as well as unobserved heterogeneity across riders due to important unobserved factors.
Helmet use was shown to vary across demographic segments of the motorcyclist population. Use rates were higher among Caucasian riders, as well as among those age 60 and above. No significant difference was observed between male and female riders. Use was also found to vary geographically, temporally, and with respect to various environmental characteristics. Geographically, helmet use rates tended to be correlated with historical restraint use trends, which may be reflective of riding environment and general differences in the riding population. To this end, rates were also highly variable based upon the type of motorcycle and whether the motorcyclist was wearing high-visibility gear.
The study results demonstrate the short-term reduction in helmet use following transition from a universal to partial motorcycle helmet law. The reduction in use is somewhat less pronounced than has been experienced in other states, which may be reflective of general differences among Michigan motorcyclists because the state has also generally exhibited higher use rates of seat belts and other forms of occupant protection. The study results also highlight potential target areas for subsequent education and public awareness initiatives aimed at increasing helmet use.