All motorcycle drivers and passengers in New Orleans are required to wear a helmet. Although helmets have been proven to greatly reduce the risk of personal injury and death in motorcycle accidents, Louisiana is one of only nineteen states requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. Nationally, about one in seven motor vehicle fatalities in 2011 involved motorcycle accidents, with approximately 4,500 bikers killed while using motorcycles.
The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) offers even more surprising findings. While annual passenger vehicle fatalities declined by approximately 5% from 1997 to 2008, over the same time period the number of annual deaths in motorcycle accidents more than doubled. Motorcyclist fatalities again rose slightly in 2010, while fatalities in car accidents have generally continued to decline. Overall, the NHSTA has determined that per mile traveled, a motorcyclist is approximately 30 times more likely than someone in a car to die in a motor vehicle accident.
Based on these findings, the federal Government Accountability Office has called on Congress to grant individual states greater flexibility in how federal motorcycle safety grants are spent by the states. Currently, these funds may only be spent on motorcyclist training and programs to increase motorist awareness.
The NHTSA awarded $45.9 million in motorcyclist safety grants to the states between 2006 and 2012 and assists states in developing motorcycle safety strategies. While the NHTSA has noted that mandatory helmet laws are proven to be effective in reducing fatalities – an issue that would have little impact in Louisiana where helmets already are mandatory – it also notes that recent studies indicate that programs supporting heightened police enforcement of laws that protect motorcyclists and increasing safety awareness among motorcyclists help to reduce motorcycle injuries and fatalities. Greater flexibility in how grant money is spent would allow states to better fund such programs geared toward protecting motorcyclists.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, please feel free to call us at 504-581-6411 or 855-GERTLER with any legal questions. We would be happy to help you.