About five times as many no-helmet biker deaths occur in states with less restrictive laws. Medical costs are lower too, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control.
Researchers looked at a government tally of fatal traffic crashes, focusing on 2008 through 2010. They counted 14,283 deaths of motorcyclists. That included 6,057 bikers with no helmet. About 12 percent of those deaths occurred in the 20 states that required everyone on motorcycles to wear helmets.
Researchers also made 2010 cost calculations based on medical expenses and lost work productivity from motorcycle deaths and injuries. In states that require helmets, more is saved per registered bike than in states with fewer or no restrictions, $725 versus $200.
When the study was conducted, three states - Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire - had no helmet law. Another 27, including South Carolina, required helmets for teenagers or certain other riders. Twenty states had universal motorcycle helmet laws. Michigan changed its law this year. Now riders older than 21 can ride without a helmet if they meet certain requirements, including carrying an additional $20,000 in medical insurance.
Local bikers continued to argue Monday they should have the freedom to wear a helmet or not.
"It really should be up to the rider whether they want to wear a helmet or not, I don't think it should be up to the government to have control over it," local biker John Burgess said.
"We should have rights to be able to decide on things in our life. If they restrict us here and make us wear a helmet, what else are they going to do?" SBB Four Corners manager Bill Barber said.
In 2009, the City of Myrtle Beach passed an ordinance forcing bikers to wear helmets despite a state law that allowed bikers to ride without them.
That ordinance was later overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Motorcycles account for about 3 percent of the registered vehicles on the road, according to the CDC. About 14 percent of the people who die in traffic accidents are motorcyclists.