Motorcycle-Related Injuries: The High Costs of Riding

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Abstract of Journal Article -- October 2004  

By Mark C. Race, MD, and  Mary C. Carlile , MD  

Statistical information showing an upward trend in trauma and health care costs for injured motorcycle riders in recent years has been presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Trauma Data Bank, the Texas Department of Health (TDH), and the EMS/Trauma Registry. Using the National Hospital Discharge Survey and the TDH Bureau of State Health Data and Policy Analysis, the TDH Injury Epidemiology and Surveillance Program confirms this alarming development.

Current Texas motorcycle laws in the Transportation Code (revised § 661.003 [c] in 1997) allow exemptions for offenses related to not wearing protective headgear, otherwise covered by federal law. Adult riders of motorcycles in Texas are exempted from the helmet requirement if they possess either a minimum of $10,000 of medical insurance benefits or proof of successful completion of a safety course.

Members of the Texas Medical Association Committee on Rehabilitation and other Texas and US physicians involved in the care of motorcycle trauma patients have expressed concern about this public health issue. A commitment to the prevention of disabling injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and multiple trauma has motivated these physician groups to further study the problem. Research shows that the cost of standard medical treatment for these traumatic injuries exceeds the funding available from mandated minimum medical insurance and private pay sources. Data from national and state figures show that the public bears the burden for these costs in many cases. A new look at current state Transportation Code motorcycle rules is needed to investigate these issues and to highlight the costs of this problem.


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