Background and Objectives: Twenty-seven states have youth-specific helmet laws even though such laws have been shown to decrease helmet use and increase youth mortality compared with all-age (universal) laws. Our goal was to quantify the impact of age-specific helmet laws on youth under age 20 hospitalized with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Methods: Our cross-sectional ecological group analysis compared TBI proportions among US states with different helmet laws. We examined the following null hypothesis: If age-specific helmet laws are as effective as universal laws, there will be no difference in the proportion of hospitalized young motorcycle riders with TBI in the respective states. The data are derived from the 2005 to 2007 State Inpatient Databases of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. We examined data for 17 states with universal laws, 6 states with laws for ages <21, and 12 states with laws for children younger than 18 (9287 motorcycle injury discharges).
Results: In states with a <21 law, serious TBI among youth was 38% higher than in universal-law states. Motorcycle riders aged 12 to 17 in 18 helmet-law states had a higher proportion of serious/severe TBI and higher average Abbreviated Injury Scores for head-region injuries than riders from universal-law states.
Conclusions: States with youth-specific laws had an increased risk of TBI that required hospitalization, serious and severe TBI, TBI-related disability, and in-hospital death among the youth they are supposed to protect. The only method known to keep motorcycle-helmet use high among youth is to adopt or maintain universal helmet laws.
- hospital discharges
- motorcycle helmets
- helmet laws
- traffic accidents
- non-traffic accidents
- traumatic brain injury
- injury severity
- Accepted October 1, 2010.
- Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics