8 Ball In The Wind

Sunday, December 18, 2016

NHTSA And the CDC Play Down Pro-Choice Helmet Data

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and other government agencies have for decades pushed for Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws in the United States.  Their claim that mandatory motorcycle helmet use is the best way to reduce motorcycle fatalities would seem to fly in the face of reality.  If this was true, than states with mandatory helmet laws should always have much lower injury and death rates than in pro-choice states that allow the choice to wear a helmet or not.  The facts show this to be untrue.  It has been demonstrated for decades to be false, and the pattern continues to this day, as I will show.  Yet, those same government agencies continue to push for a Universal Helmet Law.

 Fact is what should be focused on, and if the fact of helmet wearing causes serious health risks can be found buried deep within the reports of those who continue to maintain that universal helmet use is the one key to preventing motorcycle injury and fatalities.  It is only fitting that we use them to demonstrate the risk factors involved with mandatory helmet use, and of course to demonstrate the dubiousness of the "common sense" claim of motorcyclists as a "public burden".

One of the most telling examples of an agenda to create a Universal Helmet Law within the US is when proponents bring up the cost of head injuries, and how motorcyclists become a "public burden" to society due to their head injuries.  This is shown by the CDC's efforts.  Even though their own data shows not only that motorcyclists medical costs account for less than 0.001% of the total cost of American Healthcare.  Unhelmeted motorcyclists account for only a fraction of that 0.001%.  The CDC's own data further shows that automobile occupants involved in a crash are ten times more likely to go to the emergency room with head injuries than motorcyclists.  Think about that for a moment. 47.7% of automobile crash victims receive some form of head injury in a crash, and only 4.5% of motorcyclists receive some form of head injury in a crash.  According to the CDC, on average, 104,366 automobile crash victims suffer head injuries every year.  While 9,938 motorcyclists receive some type of head injury in crashes every year.  

Data from the 1994 Motorcycle Statistical Annual by the Motorcycle Industry Council, showed that both the accident rate, and fatality rate tended to be significantly higher in states with universal helmet laws than in pro-choice states.  On average, there were nearly one half as many accidents and fatalities in pro-choice states.  In 2014, a letter to US Rep. Thomas Petri from the Centers for Disease Control stated their support for Universal Helmet Laws with the fact that 41% of the motorcycles riders killed in 2010 were not wearing a helmet.  That would seem to show that have again as many motorcyclists died wearing helmets as not.  Which fits with the data from 1994.  

In May of 2016, The Governors Highway Safety Administration released it's Preliminary Report on highway safety.  In it were the statistics of fatalities for motorcyclists by state, and helmet law.  While the report again supported a Universal Helmet Law as the best way to reduce fatalities, the reports own data showed differently.  Of the nineteen states that have a Universal Helmet Law, twelve saw an increase in motorcycle fatalities between 2014 and 2015, while ten of 31 pro-choice (or no helmet law) states saw a decrease. So obviously helmet use is not the panacea it's proponents claim it to be.  Yet they disregard those facts, and continue their push for Universal Helmet Laws.

If you should google motorcycle helmet related neck injury studies, you will find several reports that take NHTSA or CDC studies and just slightly alter the words.  Some embellish them to the point that it is clear the original data was never really looked at.  As long as the canon of helmet use equals safety is preserved in the reports all the better.

In the 2009 NHTSA study "Motorcycle Helmet Use and Head and Facial injuries Crash Outcomes"
the data has some interesting points that would seem to weaken NHTSA's position that wearing helmets significantly lower head and neck injuries.  While the difference in Table 12 between helmeted and unhelmeted motorcyclists receiving no injury was 87.9% for helmeted and 80.2% for unhelmeted motorcyclists, the numbers of moderate to severe head injury are 1.4% or less in difference between the two groups.  This could be significant, as the description for Table 13 in the study states; "No differences were noted in the number and severity level of external injuries between helmeted and non-helmeted motorcyclists."  As the differences in Table 13 were all 1.4% or less, as were the differences in table 12 (Extremity Injury Severity), it should be safe to say NHTSA considers, a 1.4% difference to equate to no difference.  However in Table 14 (TBI Severity) it seems that a 1.9% difference in favor of helmeted riders for mild to moderate severity is something to be acknowledged.  These examples show that NHTSA is picking what data is significant or not by whether it supports NHTSA's Universal Helmet Law agenda or not.  This is troubling in several ways.  Not least of which is NHTSA's own data that 81% of helmeted motorcyclists die from injuries other than the head.  Then in this 2009 study, NHTSA downplays the fact that their data shows a 1.4% greater percentage of body extremity injuries for helmeted riders, while drawing attention to a 1.9% greater percentage of mild to moderate TBI in non-helmeted riders.

This study also showed a definite pattern of greater injury to the upper and lower extremities than unhelmeted motorcyclists.  A full 4% greater number of "Moderate" injury for helmeted riders than non-helmeted riders.  Curiously, the percentage of "No Injury" to both upper and lower extremities, is markedly lower in the riders not wearing helmets. 

Another curious fact about this study, is that while there are almost half again as many helmeted motorcycle riders injured in real numbers, the number of neck injuries for helmeted motorcyclists in real numbers is double those of non-helmeted riders.  The numbers for injury to the thoracic region of the body (the chest area) is also higher for helmeted motorcyclists.  NHTSA's own study shows that helmeted motorcyclists have a higher percentage of injuries to the neck, thoracic and abdominal regions of the body, as well as to both the upper and lower extremities than non-helmeted motorcyclists.  Yet they discount those facts in support of their Universal Helmet Law agenda.

Similarly, in the CDC's 2010 report, "Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States", the data shows that 47.7% of automobile occupants involved in a crash who go to the ER, are there for head injuries.  According to the CDC, that is an annual average of 104,366 head injuries in the ER are due to head injuries from automobile accidents.  Yet as stated previously, 9,938 motorcyclists are seen in the ER for head injury due to crashes.  Which brings to mind the question; "Why are motorcyclists considered a public burden?"  It is widely publicized that 54% of motorcyclists require some form of aid due to medical bills.  The fact that 57% of the public in general require assistance paying for their medical bills is hardly publicized or it is ignored.  Even though unhelmeted motorcyclist account for less than 0.001% of American healthcare costs, we are promoted as a "public burden" by government agencies like the CDC and others.

One of the canons of the Universal Helmet Law.agenda is the high cost of head injury and the "public burden" unhelmeted motorcyclists create for society.  As can be shown in this excerpt from the 2014 letter from the CDC to US Rep. Thomas Petri: "treating severe traumatic brain injuries costs 13 times more than non-brain injuries."

So to close, I bring you some government facts to consider:

1. NHTSA data shows that helmeted riders have only a 1.4% or less rate of moderate to critical head injuries than non-helmeted riders.
2. NHTSA data shows non-helmeted riders have only a 0.9% greater chance of moderate or severe facial injury than helmeted riders.
3. NHTSA data shows that helmeted riders have a higher risk of neck, thoracic, abdominal, and extremity injuries than non-helmeted riders.
4. NHTSA data shows that 81% of helmeted riders died from injuries to other parts of the body, which they have a higher risk of experiencing.
5. NHTSA data shows a lightly higher risk of moderate spinal injury than non-helmeted riders.
6. CDC data shows that unhelmeted motorcyclists account for less than 0.001% of American healthcare costs.
7. CDC data shows that treating severe TBI is 13 times more costly than non-brain injuries;
8. CDC data shows that nearly 11 times as many automobile occupants are admitted to the ER due to head injuries suffered in crashes than motorcyclists.

And we have to wear helmets why?  Because the paternalistic government, and their need for control over their citizens is certain motorcyclists will never band together enough support to vote them out of office.  While mandating automobile occupants to wear helmets for the same reason as motorcyclists must, would get them voted out of office at the next election.

Catch you on the road sometime...

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