A year after Missouri’s repeal of the all-rider helmet law, the number of motorcyclists without helmets killed in crashes has increased by roughly 10 times.

The law previously required all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. After the repeal, which took effect Aug. 28, 2020, riders who are 26 years and older with valid health insurance are not required to wear helmets.

As of July 8, the Missouri Department of Transportation reported a 33% increase in motorcyclist fatalities after the law changed. The number of “un-helmeted” riders killed in crashes increased from two in the first six months of 2020 to 31 at that point in 2021.

Jon Nelson, a MoDOT highway and traffic engineer, said Wednesday there have been 104 motorcyclist fatalities this year. Fifty-four of those riders were not wearing helmets. This is an increase of 23 fatalities in two months alone.

In comparison to last year, just five out of the 82 fatalities MoDOT recorded were motorcyclists without helmets. Fatalities in 2021 are nearly 10 times more than what was recorded last year.

Motorcycle accidents have not only led to an increase in fatalities, but an increase in the number of cases that MU Health Care has seen.

“Anecdotally, MU Health Care emergency physicians have noticed an increase in the number of motorcycle accident injuries without helmets,” MU Health Care media relations strategist Eric Maze said in an email.

Maze also said motorcyclists who do not wear helmets are more likely to be injured when involved in a crash.

Kyle Green, a state trooper in the Missouri State Highway Patrol, has worked for the patrol for over 20 years. There are over 1,400 state troopers that cover the state of Missouri, and Green said most don’t handle enough motorcycle accidents to notice a trend.

Regarding helmets, Green said, “If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your family.”

Nelson estimated there would be around 30 to 35 more fatalities a year due to the repeal of the helmet law.

“You are much more likely to survive a motorcycle crash if you wear a helmet,” Nelson said.

MoDOT still advises motorcyclists to wear helmets and encourages other drivers to be aware of motorcyclists. The best way to avoid accidents is to drive the appropriate speed, not drive drunk or impaired and to pay attention to the road and surroundings.

While all helmets may seem safe, MoDOT has certain requirements about what helmets should look and feel like to maximize protection. Safe helmets should weigh about three pounds and be one inch thick with a foam liner, sturdy chin straps and solid rivets. Helmets that meet qualifications have a DOT label on the back.

Show-Me Zero, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety’s highway safety plan, has a simple idea to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries: no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

  • Community reporter, fall 2021. I am studying investigative journalism and political science. Reach me at olivia.apostolovski@umsystem.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Assistant city editor, grad student studying investigative reporting and photojournalism. You can reach me at cjmx5d@umsystem.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

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