NEW YORK, Nov 16, 2010 (AFP) - Lax motorcycle helmet rules across many US states are leading to the deaths of thousands of bikers a year, a government safety authority said Tuesday.
"Although the number of motorcycle fatalities fell in 2009, the 4,400 deaths still outnumber those in aviation, rail, marine and pipeline combined," the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement.
The NTSB said that biker deaths more than doubled between 1997 and 2008, a period when overall highway fatalities declined. Government studies show that head injuries are the prime cause of death in motorbike accidents.
"The NTSB therefore recommends that everyone aboard a motorcycle be required to wear a helmet that complies" with federal safety standards.
Only 20 of 50 states have universal helmet laws. Another 27 states have partial laws, for example requiring minors or passengers to helmet up. In Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire no helmet is required.