Motorcycle fatalities in New Mexico: the association of helmet nonuse with alcohol intoxication

Ann Emerg Med. 1992 Mar;21(3):279-83. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)80888-1.


Study objective: To determine the relationship among helmet use, alcohol use, and ethnicity in people killed on motorcycles.

Design: Retrospective review of all motorcycle fatalities in New Mexico from 1984 through 1988.

Setting: Office of the Medical Investigator, State of New Mexico.

Type of participants: All decedents of motorcycle crashes in New Mexico from 1984 through 1988.

Interventions: Review of all autopsies, medical investigator reports, traffic fatality reports, and toxicological studies on fatally injured motorcyclists.

Results: Nine of the helmeted drivers (18%) were legally intoxicated compared with 67 of the nonhelmeted drivers (51%) (chi 2 = 15.7, P less than .0001); 42 of the white nonHispanic decedents (37%), ten of Hispanic decedents (12%), and none of the Native-American decedents were wearing helmets. The head and neck region was the most severely injured body region in 42 of the nonhelmeted cases (84%) and in eight of the helmeted cases (50%) (Fisher's exact test, P less than .02).

Conclusion: There is an association between nonuse of helmets and alcohol intoxication in fatally injured motorcyclists in New Mexico. Strategies for preventing motorcycle fatalities should address alcohol abuse and ethnicity in conjunction with helmet use.

MeSH terms

  • Abbreviated Injury Scale
  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / blood
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / complications*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / ethnology
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Ethanol / blood
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Head Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Care Costs
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motorcycles / statistics & numerical data*
  • New Mexico / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Ethanol