Former State's Attorney With Over 35 Years of Experience
It’s estimated that per mile traveled in 2018, the number of motorcycle accident fatalities was nearly 27 times the number of car accident fatalities.
Motorcyclists are some of the most vulnerable populations on roads in Illinois and throughout the United States. Often other drivers don’t keep an eye out for them and may not see them until it’s too late. Without at least four points of contact to the road, motorcycles are also less stable. If they do get into an accident, motorcyclists have much less protection than those around them riding in vehicles. There are no crumple zones, airbags, or seat belts on a bike. However, motorcyclists can take steps to ensure a greater degree of safety while riding. One of these is to wear a helmet.
If a motorcycle is injured in an accident, they should contact a Chicago motorcycle accident lawyer whether they were wearing a helmet or not. Injured parties may have legal rights to compensation, but time is of the essence.
You might think it’s safe to assume that Illinois has a motorcycle helmet law. However, it’s not. What might be even more surprising is that Illinois used to mandate the use of helmets while riding motorcycles. The Illinois statute that required wearing a motorcycle helmet was repealed in 1969, with many groups citing the need for personal responsibility when riding. Today, only Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa lack any laws requiring a motorcycle helmet for drivers or passengers of a motorcycle.
Illinois law currently only requires that the “…operator of a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle or moped and every passenger thereon shall be protected by glasses, goggles or a transparent shield.” According to the law, “glasses” refer to normal eyepieces worn in front of the eye, such as shatter-resistant material eyeglasses or sunglasses. “Goggles” refers to a device that protects the eyes without blocking peripheral vision. Appropriate goggles must provide protection from the front and sides, and they don’t have to form a complete seal with the face.
A “transparent shield” refers to a windshield attached to the front of the motorcycle, as long as it extends above the eyes when the driver is seated in a normal, upright position. It can also refer to a face shield that covers the rider’s eyes and face, at least to about the tip of the nose. All transparent shields must be shatter-resistant.
There is no mention of wearing a helmet in the law. While protecting the eyes is always good and can prevent many injuries and even minor irritations while riding a motorcycle, protective eyewear doesn’t save lives.
In 2019, 99 percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws wore helmets. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in states without such laws, including Illinois, helmet use was 71 percent, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Use of helmets compliant with federal safety regulations was at 89 percent in states with universal helmet laws and 56 percent in states like Illinois without such laws.
Helmets are approximately:
Overall, 61 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists wore a helmet in 2019 at the time of their crash, while 47 percent of fatally injured passengers wore a helmet.
In the same year, 88 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists used helmets in states with helmet laws pertaining to all riders. In states lacking any helmet laws, the same figure was only 28 percent. In states with helmet laws that apply only to specific riders, 41 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were wearing helmets.
The NHTSA estimates that over 25,000 lives have been saved simply by wearing motorcycle helmets since 2002, including 1,872 lives saved in 2017. An additional 802 lives could have been saved in 2017 if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. It’s estimated that motorcycle helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle drivers and 41 percent effective for their passengers.
According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), the use of Department of Transportation (DOT)-compliant helmets by both motorcycle riders and passengers was 65.2 percent in 2017. Helmet use has increased by 13 percent since 2002, from 57.7 percent.
Motorcyclists and other drivers have a reasonable expectation to decrease the risks of accidents and injuries. While part of this expectation is to abide by the local laws, sometimes the expectation goes above and beyond the law. This is true when it comes to wearing a helmet in Illinois. Even though the law doesn’t mandate that motorcyclists or their passengers wear a helmet, doing so can markedly decrease the chances of being significantly injured in an accident.
Suppose you weren’t wearing a helmet but sustained injuries that could have been prevented by wearing one. In that case, you may not receive as much compensation as if you had worn one. The best way to find out is to schedule a consultation with an experienced Chicago motorcycle accident attorney. Not wearing a helmet doesn’t automatically preclude you from recovering compensation for your injuries. Even though it can decrease the amount of compensation you might be eligible to receive, a skilled attorney can work to maximize the settlement you receive for your damages.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, you deserve compensation for your damages, such as pain and suffering and medical expenses. Unfortunately, most accident victims aren’t offered fair settlements unless they have legal representation.
Speak with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer about your accident and injuries today. We can show the insurance company that you are serious about getting a full and fair settlement, even if it takes some time. Call the Law Offices of Michael J. Brennan for a no-obligation case consultation. We can be reached at 708-894-1611.