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Increase in Motorcycle Fatalities Renews Utah Helmet Law Debate

Fatal motorcycle accidents are up in Utah. According to the Utah Highway Safety Office, eight people have already died this year in motorcycle crashes. This compares to five fatalities during all of last year.

The most recent fatal motorcycle crash was on the night of June 4. A 46-year-old man from Brigham City was killed after running into a discarded mattress on the interstate and crashing.

The increase in motorcycle fatalities has once again prompted debate about whether Utah should have a law making motorcycle helmet use mandatory. The man killed in the I-15 crash earlier this week was not wearing a helmet.

In general, wearing a helmet does make it more likely that a rider or passenger will survive a motorcycle accident.

But according to Corporal Todd Johnson of the Utah State Patrol, it is not clear whether wearing a helmet would have kept the June 4 crash from becoming a fatal one.

In fact, there are many people in the motorcycle community who believe that helmets have some detrimental safety effects, not just positive ones.

"It impairs our vision and it impairs your hearing and it fatigues you," said James Parker, a service manager at Harley-Davidson in Buell. "If you go riding 500 miles in a day and you have that helmet all day long, you're getting tired."

Others, of course, take a different view. They point to the inescapable fact that motorcycles, by their very nature, don't offer the protection that car or truck does.

And then there is the question of whether the state should mandate helmets - restricting people's freedom in the name of public safety.

Source: "Motorcycle helmet debate in Utah: Freedom vs safety," Deseret News, 6-5-12

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