Objectives: The incidence, type, severity, and costs of crash-related injuries requiring hospitalization or resulting in death were compared for helmeted and unhelmeted motorcyclists.
Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of injured motorcyclists in Washington State in 1989. Motorcycle crash data were linked to statewide hospitalization and death data.
Results: The 2090 crashes included in this study resulted in 409 hospitalizations (20%) and 59 fatalities (28%). Although unhelmeted motorcyclists were only slightly more likely to be hospitalized overall, they were more severely injured, nearly three times more likely to have been head injured, and nearly four times more likely to have been severely or critically head injured than helmeted riders. Unhelmeted riders were also more likely to be readmitted to a hospital for follow-up treatment and to die from their injuries. The average hospital stay for unhelmeted motorcyclists was longer, and cost more per case; the cost of hospitalization for unhelmeted motorcyclists was 60% more overall ($3.5 vs $2.2 million).
Conclusions: Helmet use is strongly associated with reduced probability and severity of injury, reduced economic impact, and a reduction in motorcyclist deaths.