Motorcycle crash puts hospital in awkward position over helmet use

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In 2008 motorcycle helmets saved 1,829 lives. NHTSA says that if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, 823 more lives would have been saved.

–Insurance information Institute

SALT LAKE CITY -- Three motorcyclists are expected to recover from head injuries suffered in a charity bike ride Sunday, but the crash has put Shriners Hospital in an awkward position over the issue of helmets.

The 15th annual Kids Benefit Ride resulted in a crash near Park City was not sponsored or organized by Shriners Hospital, but Shriners is the beneficiary of the charity ride, organized by Wright's Motorcycle Parts and Accessories.

Nearly 300 motorcycles were traveling in the charity ride. The Utah Highway Patrol says one bike was following too closely and collided with another one when it slowed down. None of the three motorcycle riders involved was wearing a helmet; all three were injured.

Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries for motorcycle riders (operators) and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers.

–Insurance Information Institute

The Utah Safety Council says Utah riders are 84 percent more likely to die in a crash if they are not wearing a helmet.

"Drivers and passengers on motorcycles are virtually unprotected. They're not protected by 3,000 pounds of steel, as is the case in a motor vehicle," says Bob Parenti, president of the Utah Safety Council.

But helmets are not required under Utah law, except for motorcyclists under age 18. Many riders don't like helmets, considering them an infringement on comfort, hearing and their sense of physical freedom. They consider it a matter of personal choice.

Shriners issued a written statement Monday expressing gratitude for the charity ride and concern for the injured, without taking a position on whether the riders should wear helmets.

The hospital statement said, in part: "We are meeting with event organizers to ensure every safety precaution is taken to minimize the risk of future accidents." [CLICK HERE to read the entire statement from Shriners Hospital]

Did you know ?
Helmets decrease the severity of head injuries, the likelihood of death, and the overall cost of medical care. They are designed to cushion and protect riders' heads from the impact of a crash. NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of crash fatality by 37 percent. Helmets are highly effective in preventing brain injuries, which often require extensive treatment and may result in lifelong disability. In the event of a crash, unhelmeted motorcyclists are three times more likely than helmeted riders to suffer traumatic brain injuries.
-Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Wright Motorcycle also issued a statement, saying it is re-evaluating the annual event: "As Utah is a helmet choice state, it is unfortunate that the riders were not wearing helmets." [CLICK HERE to read the entire statement form Wright Motorcycle]

Wright Motorcycle said it hopes the concern about helmets does not overshadow the good the ride has done. Over the years, it has raised many thousands of dollars to benefit Shriners Hospital.


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John Hollenhorst


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