Motorcycle Helmet Laws

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The number of motorcyclists killed in accidents has doubled over the past decade to more than 4,000 annual fatalities in the United States. More than two thirds of those killed were not wearing helmets.

"Wearing a helmet in minor accidents will keep you safer in minor accidents where you could be seriously injured by a simple fall," said Sgt. Stephen Depauw of the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department.

Illinois lawmakers have fought helmet laws ever since the federal government tried to mandate helmet use in 1967.

"It's just something that Illinois and some other states believe that for adults it should be a driver's choice," said State Senator Dave Syverson.

One of the reasons Illinois has a law that requires drivers and passengers in automobiles is because it's required to receive certain federal highway funding, but seat belts or not, cars and trucks have a lot more protection in accidents than motorcycles.

"The individual on the motorcycle isn't protected by anything around them and they take the impact of the pavement or grass or whatever they land on," said Sgt. Depauw.

Lawmakers have left the decision up to motorcyclists because there are some disadvantages to wearing a helmet.

"There's concern that when you wear a helmet you lose peripheral vision and ability to hear," said Syverson.

In Wisconsin riders younger than 18 must wear helmets on motorcycles. Illinois does not have any helmet requirements.