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South Med J. 2005 Apr;98(4):436-40.

Trends in Arkansas motorcycle trauma after helmet law repeal.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



This study aimed to assess the impact of the 1997 Arkansas helmet law repeal on motorcycle registrations, crash and fatality risks, and alcohol involvement in motorcycle crashes.


Annual motorcycle registration data for the years 1990 through 2001 were obtained from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. These motorcycle registration data were complemented by the motorcycle crash data from the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office and motorcycle fatality data for the state of Arkansas from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The impact of the repeal on crash rates, helmet usage, and alcohol involvement was assessed through comparisons of data from before (1993 to 1996) and after (1998 to 2001) the repeal.


After the repeal, an increase in motorcycle registrations correlated with a marked rise in the total number of crashes and fatalities; however, fatalities per crash remained virtually the same. The proportion of motorcycle fatalities that were not wearing a helmet increased from 47.0% (47/100) before the repeal to 78.2% (104/133) after the repeal (P = 0.001). The overall percentage of fatal motorcycle crashes involving alcohol use remained unchanged after the repeal (37.6% [29/77] to 38.5% [40/104], P = 0.91), but the percentage of fatal crashes involving drinking nonhelmeted drivers increased from 14.2% (11/77) to 33.6% (35/104) (P = 0.003). Inebriated motorcyclists killed in crashes were overwhelmingly non-helmeted (87.5%, 35/40) after the repeal, up from 37.9% (11/29) before the repeal (P < 0.001).


These findings suggest that the repeal of the mandatory helmet law in Arkansas has had a significant adverse effect on road safety.

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