Virginia DMV says unhelmeted motorcycle deaths at decade high

RICHMOND, Va. – Officials in Virginia are asking motorcyclists to be more careful after deaths on motorcycles have seen a decade high in the Commonwealth. 

According to the Virginia DMV, in 2019, there have been seven motorcyclist deaths where the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet, which is a decade high for Virginia with more than a month left in the year. There were zero unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities last year, one in 2017, four in 2016 and three in 2015.

“A helmet is the most important safety equipment a motorcyclist wears,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Before you even think about getting on your bike, make sure you have on the proper gear, including an approved helmet.”

According to Virginia law, motorcyclists and their passengers must always wear a helmet, and the helmet must meet or exceed the standards and specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute Inc., or the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Statistically, helmets can reportedly are about 29 percent effective in preventing motorcyclist deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. A rider without a helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than is a helmeted rider, added Virginia officials.

“Our goal is to always see traffic fatalities decreasing from year to year, so when the trend is upward, we need to redouble our efforts,” Holcomb said. “That means every driver out there needs to look twice for motorcycles, avoid distractions and never drive impaired. And every motorcycle rider needs to wear the proper gear, obey speed limits and ride within their abilities.”

DMV offers the Virginia Rider Training Program for both beginning and experienced riders. Courses are taught by certified motorcycle safety instructors, and provide the opportunity to learn new techniques and practice skills in a controlled, safe environment. Classes are offered at community colleges and other locations throughout the state.

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