Illinois motorcyclist deaths go up, lack of helmet law to blame

While the number of motorcycle fatalities nationwide went down 8.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, that number actually went up 5.2 percent in the same time span in Illinois. Preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that compared to 154 deaths in 2016, there were 162 reported deaths in 2017.

There are many factors that go into motorcycle accidents, such as operator error, hazards created by motorists, bad weather and the presence of wildlife. The Governors Highway Safety Association also points to alcohol. In a report covering motorcycle crashes in 2016, the GHSA found that riders were legally drunk in 25 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes.

Helmet use, however, is arguably the biggest factor. Illinois is one of only three states, together with Iowa and New Hampshire, to have no helmet law. Elsewhere, 28 states require helmet use among younger riders, and 19 states in addition to Washington, D.C., require all motorcyclists and their passengers to wear helmets.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing motorcyclist deaths and 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. The CDC also believes that helmets are the best way to save lives and money. However, pro-helmet advocates, which include insurance companies and doctors, are fighting an uphill battle against motorcyclists themselves.

Motorcycle crashes can lead to traumatic brain injuries, which are sometimes hard to diagnose. Victims of such crashes may want to see if they are eligible for compensation under personal injury law. A lawyer might evaluate the case to see whether the victim was less than 50 percent at fault. Under Illinois' comparative negligence rule, victims will have the amount for damages reduced based on the degree to which they contributed to the accident. The lawyer may then be able to negotiate for a fair settlement out of court.

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