Public Health Resources


Date of this Version



Olsen et al. Injury Epidemiology (2016) 3:8


© 2016 Olsen et al.

Open access

DOI 10.1186/s40621-016-0072-9


Background: Despite evidence that motorcycle helmets reduce morbidity and mortality, helmet laws and rates of helmet use vary by state in the U.S. Methods: We pooled data from eleven states: five with universal laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, and six with partial laws requiring only a subset of motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Data were combined in the Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System’s General Use Model and included motorcycle crash records probabilistically linked to emergency department and inpatient discharges for years 2005-2008. Medical outcomes were compared between partial and universal helmet law settings. We estimated adjusted relative risks (RR) and 95 % confidence intervals (CIs) for head, facial, traumatic brain, and moderate to severe head/facial injuries associated with helmet use within each helmet law setting using generalized log-binomial regression. Results: Reported helmet use was higher in universal law states (88 % vs. 42 %). Median charges, adjusted for inflation and differences in state-incomes, were higher in partial law states (emergency department $1987 vs. $1443; inpatient $31,506 vs. $25,949). Injuries to the head and face, including traumatic brain injuries, were more common in partial law states. Effectiveness estimates of helmet use were higher in partial law states (adjusted-RR (CI) of head injury: 2.1 (1.9-2.2) partial law single vehicle; 1.4 (1.2, 1.6) universal law single vehicle; 1.8 (1.6-2.0) partial law multivehicle; 1.2 (1.1-1.4) universal law multi-vehicle). Conclusions: Medical charges and rates of head, facial, and brain injuries among motorcyclists were lower in universal law states. Helmets were effective in reducing injury in both helmet law settings; lower effectiveness estimates were observed in universal law states.