Illinois' no helmet law questioned
June 13, 2006 (last updated 3:53 PM) (WLS) -- A high profile motorcycle crash is once again bringing attention to the fact motorcycle riders in Illinois do not have to wear a helmet. Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethilsberger, 24, was injured in a motorcyle crash Monday.
Doctors said Roethlisberger should be released from the hospital in three to five days.
Now that the warm weather has arrived, motorcycle enthusiasts are out in numbers. But as Illinois State Police report, the increase in bikers brings an increase in crashes.
"The people on their motorcycles and the accidents that we handle, a lot of injuries mainly from the guys not wearing their helmets out there," said Sgt. Michael Musiol, ISP Motorcycle Unit.
Motorcycle deaths are on the rise in Illinois. In 2004 there were 157 motorcycle fatalities compared to 143 in 2003 and only 100 in 2002. Of those fatalities in 2004, 119 were not wearing a helmet.
Illinois has been successful in passing many traffic safety laws, such as primary seatbelt and booster seat legislation. However, Illinois is one of three states that has no motorcycle helmet use requirements at all.
"In Illinois the reason why we don't have the law is because the motorcycle organizations that have lobbied against the bill," said Sen. John Cullerton, (D) Chicago.
One of those organizations is ABATE, which released this statement: "ABATE of Illinois is not against helmets; We are opposed to mandatory helmet laws. We believe it is the right of the individual to choose whether or not to wear a helmet."
Dr. Puliyodil Philip is a brain injury expert at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He has seem more than his share of motorcycle crash victims without helmets.
"Severe brain injuries, skull fractures, fractures of the bones of the face, injury to the orbit or around the eye. I am of strong opinion that people who wear the helmet riding a motor bike can decrease the amount of injury and also the severity of injury," said Dr. Philip.
Transportation experts say a helmet law in Illinois could save as many as 50 lives a year. Motorcycle organizations point out a helmet is not an accident prevention device. They said more attention should be paid to what causes the actual crash.
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