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The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop D, which covers Southwest Missouri, recently tweeted something alarming.

From Oct. 5: “So far this year we have had 72 motorcyclists killed in crashes where the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet. That’s a 414% increase from last year! It’s not illegal to wear a helmet. A DOT approved helmet is still your best protection in a motorcycle crash, WEAR IT.”

That statistic is tragic but, unfortunately, entirely predictable.

Missouri lawmakers last year passed a bill that waives the requirement that motorcyclists wear helmets, and it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in July 2020. It took effect the following month; as long as riders are 26 and have insurance, they don’t need a helmet.

Supporters of the legislation highlighted personal liberty while denouncing government regulations. Opponents said it could lead to more deaths and serious injuries in vehicle crashes.

Both arguments seem to be true. Drivers certainly have the personal freedom to wear a helmet or not, but their deaths also are rising, according to the data.

Because there is no law requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet, they now have the choice. And the choice is clear: Wear a helmet.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent nonprofit, notes that helmets decrease the likelihood of death and brain injuries from motorcycle crashes. It cites research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, that helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% to 42%, and that unhelmeted motorcyclists are three times more likely than helmeted riders to suffer traumatic brain injuries.

It’s now legal in Missouri not to wear a helmet, but it certainly seems the riskier option. Wear a helmet and improve your chances of surviving a deadly crash.

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