During 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation determined that 71 percent of motorcycle riders across the country wore helmets while on their bikes. That same year, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 1,762 crashes involving motorcycles in which 88 riders died and 1,495 riders suffered injuries.
Traumatic brain injuries remain among the most common injuries for motorcyclists even when the best helmets are worn and expertly fitted. When the National Highway Transportation Administration looked at this problem, it found that “15 percent of hospital-treated helmeted motorcyclists suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared to 21 percent of hospital-treated unhelmeted motorcyclists.”
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Still, the reduction in TBI risk is enough to make Virginia require helmet use by all motorcycle riders. Primarily, though, a helmet just keeps the skull intact. Even a full-enclosure helmet will not—indeed, cannot—provide absolute protection.
More than anything else, concussions, which are absolutely TBIs, occur frequently when the brain of a motorcycle rider slams into the inside of the skull. Since the brain lots in cerebrospinal fluid, it cannot be immobilized when a person’s head snaps back and forth violently or when a person’s head hits pavement.
The consequences of a concussion can be weeks, months or a lifetime of headaches, impaired vision, dizziness, nausea and memory and communications problems. And that suffering will only add to the difficulty of recovering from broken bones, lacerations and damage to internal organs.
The best protections motorcycle riders have against TBIs are their own safe driving habits and the attentiveness of other drivers. It only takes a few seconds of distraction or a minor miscalculation of the time and space needed to complete a turn for the driver of a car or truck to seriously injure or kill a motorcyclist.