American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Statement in Support of Motorcycle Helmet Laws

The following statement in support of motorcycle helmet laws was developed by the Subcommittee on Injury Prevention and Control of the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons. It was approved by the College's Board of Regents at its October 2000 meeting.

Total care of the trauma patient includes endorsement of measures designed to prevent injuries. Regarding the use of motorcycle helmets, the American College of Surgeons recognizes that:

  • Helmeted motorcycle riders have up to an 85 percent reduced incidence of severe, serious, and critical brain injuries compared with unhelmeted riders.
  • Unhelmeted motorcyclists are over three times as likely to suffer a brain injury when compared with helmeted motorcyclists.
  • The average inpatient care costs for motorcyclists who sustain a brain injury are more than twice the costs incurred by hospitalized motorcyclists without brain injury.
  • A large portion of the economic burden of motorcycle crashes is borne by the public.
  • In states with universal helmet use laws, helmet use is close to 100 percent.
  • When universal helmet use laws are enacted, helmet use increases and fatalities and serious injuries decrease.
  • When universal helmet use laws are repealed, helmet use decreases and injuries and associate costs increase.

Therefore, the American College of Surgeons supports efforts to enact and sustain universal helmet laws for motorcycle riders.


Kraus JF, Peek C, McArthur DL, Williams A: The effect of the 1992 California motorcycle helmet usage law on motorcycle crash fatalities and injuries. JAMA, 272:1506-1511, 1992.

Max W, Stark B, Root S: Putting a lid on injury costs: The economic impact of the California motorcycle helmet law. J Trauma, 45:550-556, 1998.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Report to Congress: Benefits of Safety Belts and Motorcycle Helmets. (DOT HS 808 347). Washington DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, February 1996.

Offner PJ, Rivara FP, Maier RV: The impact of motorcycle helmet use. J Trauma, 32:636-641, 1992.

United States General Accounting Office: Highway Safety: Motorcycle Hemet Laws Save Lives and Reduce Costs to Society. (GAO/RCED-91-170). Washington DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, July 1991.

Watson GA, Zador PL, Wilks A: The repeal of helmet use laws and increased motorcycle mortality in the United States (1975-1978). Am J Pub Health, 70:579-585, 1980.

Reprinted from Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
Vol.86, No. 2, February 2001