(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A year after Missouri law began allowing motorcyclists 26 or older to ride without helmets, deadly motorcycle crashes increased.
Year-to-date motorcycle deaths increased by 25 percent statewide compared to this time last year, according to data from the Missouri Department of Transportation. Of the 65 deaths in 2021, 35 were not wearing helmets. There were only two such deaths at this point in 2020.
Sgt. Jake Angle with Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop H, said riding a motorcycle is inherently more dangerous than driving a car, and while the law doesn’t require you to wear a helmet now, he strongly encourages it.
“If that motorcycle lays down or if it contacts another vehicle or stationary object, obviously, the odds of a driver of that or a passenger being injured are much higher,” Angle said.
St. Joseph resident Spencer Hausman has been concerned about the increase. He’s ridden bikes most of his life but never rides without a helmet.
“I’ve had some friends have some bad wrecks,” Hausman said. “I’ve had some friends pass away on some motorcycles and I just hate to see it happen for something that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet.”
That’s why Hausman posted on his Facebook page last month, urging his friends and family to consider wearing a helmet even if the law gives them the choice.
“I agree that everyone should be able to make their own decision but I think it's pretty obvious that helmets save lives,” Hausman said. “Heads aren’t meant to bounce or slide. That’s why they have helmets.”
In addition to wearing helmets, or other protective gear like padded clothing, MSHP recommends motorcyclists drive at legal speeds, and be alert, Angle said.
“On the flip side it’s incumbent on other drivers to keep an eye out for motorcycle riders,” Angle said. “It is that time of the year where many more of them are out there on the roadway and it’s a very popular activity so check your blind spots when you are changing lanes.”
Overall, there have been nearly 500 deaths on Missouri roadways this year.