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Ask the BayCare Clinic Specialist: Wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle

Tue, Jul 14, 2020

Man and woman on a motorcycle

Question: If I choose to not wear a helmet when I’m on the road with my motorcycle, is that a big deal?

 

Answer: As a medical professional, I’d have to say yes. Whether you’re cruising along the lake or doing highway speeds on Interstate 43, I encourage you to wear a helmet. Most healthcare providers will give you the same advice. It’s for your safety, not because we want to cramp your style.

 

We have a helmet law in Wisconsin, but it’s only a partial helmet law. It requires only those under the age of 18 or operating with an instructional permit to wear a helmet. Outside of that, the choice is yours. I’m asking you to consider wearing a helmet.

 

On average, about 100 motorcyclists die and more than 2,500 riders are injured each year in motorcycle accidents in Wisconsin, according to the state Department of Transportation. Wearing a helmet can help reduce your risk of injury or death from a motorcycle accident.

 

Nationally, helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives in 2016, the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says. They reduce the risk of death by 37 percent and the risk of head injury by 69 percent.

 

States with either partial helmet laws or no such laws see a higher percentage of fatal motorcycle crashes than states with more comprehensive helmet laws, the CDC says. Also, the federal government estimates that per mile traveled in 2014, the number of deaths on motorcycles was more than 27 times the number in cars. You can see why I strongly encourage you to consider wearing a helmet.

 

Motorcycle deaths accounted for 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2015 and were more than double the number of motorcyclist deaths in 1997, the International Institute for Highway Safety says.

 

Ultimately, it’s your choice, but there are many benefits to wearing a helmet that for me, offset most perceived negatives. Wearing a helmet:

  • Reduces your head injury risk: Motorcycle riding is more dangerous than driving a car. If you’re wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, your odds of survival in the event of a crash are significantly better.
  • Makes you more visible: Motorcyclists are harder to see on the road than automobiles. Helmets often have reflective properties that help increase their visibility to others on the road.
  • Protects you from the elements and road debris: A helmet can help keep wind and rain from blowing into your eyes. Helmets also keep motorcyclists better protected from debris and other materials that occasionally fly up from the road. Automobiles face this, too, but motorcyclists are more directly affected by the road environment than a passenger would be in a closed car.

I’m passionate about patient care. I don’t want to see you in the emergency room in a potentially avoidable life-or-death situation after a motorcycle crash.

 

Be safe, wear a helmet and have fun out there.

 

Dr. Kerry Ahrens is an emergency medicine physician with BayCare Clinic. She sees patients in Green Bay, Oshkosh and Two Rivers.

 

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BayCare Clinic, baycare.net, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.