Article Emailed to Website - 01/13/2008


The Risks of Keeping a Cool Head

By Charles Sorbie, MB, ChB, FRCS(E), FRCS(C)
ORTHOPEDICS 2008; 31:15
January 2008


T. O'Keeffe et al (J Trauma. 2007; 63(5):1006-1009.) studied motorcycle
fatalities in Miami-Dade County for a 3.5-year-period after the Florida
helmet law was repealed in July 2000. An increase in motorcycle fatalities
had been noted but..was it the result of the freedom to ride without a
helmet or because more people were riding?

In the United States, the number of registered motorcycle riders rose from
3.7 million in 1994 to 5.7 million in 2004, and the number of fatal injuries
rose from 2300 to 4000. State mandated universal helmet use decreased from
47 states in 1975 to 21 today. In July 2000, Florida repealed its motorcycle
helmet law for people >21 years, in possession of $10,000 personal injury

O'Keefe et al identified a total of 197 motorcycle fatalities for the
3.5-year period pre-repeal and a similar period post-repeal. Helmet use had
decreased from 80% before repeal to 33% after. Of the 197 fatalities, 13
were passengers; 186 were males with a mean age of 31 years.

Seventy-two deaths occurred pre-repeal and 125 post-repeal. However, in the
comparable periods, the number of registered motorcycle riders rose from
17,047 in 1997 to 39,043 by 2003 with a sharp increase after the repeal in
2000. In the same time period, the population rose only 15%. Surprisingly,
no significant difference was noted in fatality rates before and after the
Florida repeal (11.6 versus 12.5 deaths per 10,000 registered motorcycles,

Although a significant increase occurred in the number of fatalities
post-repeal of Florida's helmet law, it is associated more with the
increased number of motorcycle riders than their choice to ride without
helmets. The rush of air may clear the head and sharpen the senses.