V. EFFECTS OF THE LAW CHANGE IN LOUISIANA

THE LAW

Louisiana first adopted a motorcycle helmet law applicable to all riders in 1968. That law was amended in 1976 to require helmet use only by riders under the age of 18. Then, in 1982, the state reenacted a universal helmet law. It was this latter law that was amended effective August 1999 to require helmet use only by:

  • Motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 18;
  • Riders 18 and older who do not have medical insurance coverage of at least $10,000.

HELMET USE

Observational Surveys

Motorcycle helmet use is observed annually as a part of the state's safety belt usage survey. Results from recent surveys are shown in Table 7. The figures indicate that under the universal helmet law virtually all riders were wearing helmets. Following repeal of the law, helmet use declined to just over 50 percent.


Table 7. Observed Helmet Use in Louisiana

Year Number Observed Percent Helmeted
1997 127 100
1998 188 100
1999 21 97
2000 247 52
2001 321 52

FATALITIES

Annual Louisiana crashes in which motorcyclists were killed and the numbers killed are shown in Table 8. In the two years just prior to the universal helmet law's repeal (1997-1998), an average of 27 motorcyclists were killed in 26 crashes. In the two years after the law's repeal (2000-2001), an average of 56 motorcyclists were killed in 54 crashes. That is, fatal crashes and fatalities have doubled, on average, since the law's repeal.


Table 8. Motorcyclist Fatal Crashes and Fatalities in
Louisiana 1997-2001

Year Fatal Crashes Motorcyclists Killed
1997 19 19
1998 33 34
1999 40 40
2000 54 57
2001 54 54

1997-2000 data are from FARS, 2001 data are from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.


INJURIES

Motorcycle injury crashes and injuries are shown in Table 9 for the years 1997-2000. In 1997-1998, an average of 687 injury crashes took place resulting in 741 motorcyclist injuries. In 2000, injury crashes and injuries increased by more than 40 percent, to 977 and 1,011 respectively.

Table 9. Motorcycle Injury Crashes and Injuries in
Louisiana 1997-2000

Year Injury Crashes Motorcyclists Injured
1997 737 790
1998 637 692
1999 759 871
2000 977 1,101

MOTORCYCLE REGISTRATIONS

Table 10 shows the number of motorcycles registered in Louisiana for the years 1997 to 2000 and motorcyclist fatality and injury rates per registered motorcycle. Registration data are from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety.

Table 10. Louisiana Motorcycle Registrations and Crash Rates

Year Registered Motorcycles Motorcyclists Killed per
10,000 Registered
Persons Injured in Motorcycle Crashes
per 10,000 Registered
1997 60,042 3.2 131.6
1998 57,189 5.9 121.0
1999 64,075 6.2 135.9
2000 72,445 7.9 152.0

The figures in the table show that Louisiana has experienced a large increase in motorcycle registrations over the 1997 to 2000 period. At the same time, the rates of fatalities per registered motorcycles and injuries per registered motorcycles have also increased, indicating that the increases in motorcyclists killed and injured are not explainable solely by changes in vehicle registrations.