A previous post on this blog talked about the benefits of motorcycle helmets. The important takeaway from that post was that while helmets do indeed save lives, they are not a foolproof guarantee that a motorcyclist will not get seriously hurt or even die in an accident. Thus, people in New Mexico should resist the temptation to blame a motorcyclist for his or her injuries if he or she was not wearing a helmet.
Further studies only reinforce this point. One study examined whether helmets might actually increase the chance of serious spinal cord injuries. It concluded that, in fact, motorcycle helmets tend to prevent spinal cord injuries around one's neck. Specifically, there was a marked difference in the frequency of fractures in the vertebrae, as well as strained ligaments, between riders who wore helmets and those who did not.
However, for other types of injuries to the upper neck, helmets seemed to make little difference. For instance, injuries to the nerves or swelling and bruising on the spinal cord seemed to happen after motorcycle accidents with the same frequency without regard to whether a rider wore a helmet or not.
This information only confirms what we have repeated before. While it is certainly a good idea for a motorcyclist to wear a helmet, especially if doing so is the law, the best way to prevent injuries in a motorcycle accident is not to get in to an accident in the first place.
For other drivers who must share the road with motorcyclists, this means giving motorcyclists appropriate space and otherwise treating them with respect on the road. It is also means paying careful attention and checking twice before turning or changing lanes.
Drivers who fail to this may seriously injure a motorcyclist even if the motorcyclist took every possible step to avoid injury. In these cases, the motorcyclist may be able to hold the driver legally responsible for her injuries.