Motorcycle fatalities among out-of-state riders and the role of universal helmet laws

Michael T. French, Gulcin Gumus, Jenny F. Homer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Several studies have demonstrated that universal helmet laws (UHLs) and other motor vehicle policies are effective in reducing fatal and non-fatal motorcycle injuries. Although state policies can improve traffic safety overall, very little is known about how they affect different segments of motorcycle riders. In this paper, we investigate the differential effectiveness of such policies by license state of the rider (i.e., in-state versus out-of-state). From a policy perspective, this information gap is noteworthy because variations in state regulations may influence where individuals choose to ride. We use state-level longitudinal (1988-2008) data on motorcycle fatalities in the United States from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Our results reconfirm the effectiveness of UHLs and offer new evidence suggesting that states without such policies may attract more risky riders from out-of-state. In particular, not having a UHL increases out-of-state rider fatalities by 18 percent and this effect is more pronounced for out-of-state riders who reside in a UHL state. These findings have important implications regarding unintended spillover effects of state-specific motor vehicle policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1855-1863
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • Helmet laws
  • Motorcycle fatalities
  • Out-of-state riders
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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