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How effective are helmets in saving motorcyclists' lives?

Of course, it is important for motorcyclists who ride in and around Cary, North Carolina, to wear their helmets when they are riding. They really do save lives and prevent or mitigate serious injuries.

However, it is also important that the North Carolina public realize that helmets are not the equivalent of magic spells that automatically mean that a motorcyclist walks away from a serious motorcycle accident. Such a misperception can lead to people thinking that a motorcyclist who chose not to wear a helmet is solely at fault for his or her injuries following a serious collision.

In fact, helmets have what a government agency in charge of regulating transportation safety has called an "effectiveness rate." The effectiveness rate estimates how likely it is for a helmet to mitigate an otherwise fatal accident. According to one study by this government agency, the effectiveness rate is 37 percent for motorcycle drivers and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers.

This means that, well over half the time, a fatal North Carolina motorcycle accident would still be a fatal motorcycle accident without regard to whether the motorcyclists were wearing their helmets. Moreover, for an individual accident, it is somewhat difficult to know exactly how many lives helmets save since it is hard to determine what role, if any, a helmet had in mitigating a motorcyclist's injuries. Still, using the effectiveness rate, experts can reasonably guess the helmets save thousands of lives.

Nevertheless, North Carolina residents should remember that helmets only reduce the extent of a motorcyclist's injury after an accident has already occurred. They do not prevent motorcycle accidents from happening. In order to prevent motorcycle accidents, drivers of other vehicles need to give motorcycles a safe following distance and be on special alert for their presence on the road.

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