This is an interim report on the General Accounting Office's (GAO's) evaluation of existing studies on the effectiveness of motorcycle helmets and automobile safety belts. GAO evaluated 49 studies relative to motorcycle helmet laws. These studies consistently demonstrated safety and economic benefits from universal helmet usage laws. The studies comparing helmeted and nonhelmeted riders indicated that helmet use prevents deaths and reduces the severity of injury among surviving accident victims. The studies reported that helmet use ranges from 92 to 100% under universal laws compared with a range of 42 to 59% in states without a law or with limited laws applying only to the youngest riders. The studies also showed that when universal laws were in effect, states experienced lower fatality rates than during periods before enactment or after repeal--generally 20 to 40% lower. The available studies on societal costs indicated that helmet nonuse increased the cost of caring for injured riders. They also indicated that society incurs substantial indirect costs because nonhelmeted riders are more likely to lose earning capacity through disability or death. Of the 85 safety belt studies GAO reviewed, 34 related to safety belt equipment effectiveness. Most indicated that belted occupants tended to survive crashes 50 to 75% more frequently than unbelted occupants. Most of the estimates of the reduction in serious injury were in the 44 to 66% range. Finally, hospital admission rates were substantially lower for belted as opposed to unbelted occupants. GAO is currently analyzing the studies dealing with the effectiveness of mandatory belt use laws and the societal costs associated with the nonuse of belts.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Report to the Subcommittee on Water Resources, Transportation and Infrastructure, Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate.
  • Corporate Authors:

    U.S. General Accounting Office

    441 G Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20548
  • Publication Date: 1991-5

Media Info

  • Features: Appendices;
  • Pagination: 9 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00608496
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO/RCED-91-158
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 31 1991 12:00AM