JANICE GOLEC, DIRECTOR
OFFICE OF BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY (GEICO)
SENATE BILL 239
February 23, 1999
I am Janice Golec, director of the office of business and government
relations for Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO), the largest
subsidiary of GEICO Corporation. GEICO Corp. is the seventh largest property-
casualty insurer in the country, and the largest domestic auto insurer in
Maryland. GEICO is a member of the National Association of Independent
Insurers, an association of more than 600 of the nation’s leading insurers. I
respectfully urge you to oppose any legislation that weakens Maryland’s
current all riders motorcycle helmet law.
Motorcycle helmets help save lives and reduce critical head injuries, and
laws requiring helmet use have a dramatic life saving effect. This has been
proven in Maryland and every other state where all riders are required to wear
helmets. In such states, death rates from head injuries are half what they
are among cyclists in states with no helmet laws or laws which only apply to
minors. Where helmets have been enacted, then repealed, death rates for
motorcyclists rise in the absence of a helmet law.
This is hardly a fluke; the General Accounting Office, a non-partisan
research agency of the U.S. Government, reviewed 46 studies of motorcycle
helmets and helmet laws, and reported that every study comparing helmeted with
non-helmeted crash victims found that helmeted riders had lower fatality
rates, ranging from 28 percent to 73 percent lower. Studies of injury
severity found that helmet use reduced the incidence of severe, serious and
critical head injuries by 46 percent to 85 percent. An unhelmeted rider is 40
percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than a helmeted rider.
Across the nation, statistics support the fact that a helmet saves lives.
When ranking the states by motorcycle fatalities per million population, the
top nine states with the lowest fatality rates all require every motorcycle
rider to wear a helmet. None of the worst 14 states with the highest fatality
rates, have all rider helmets use laws.
Helmet laws save taxpayers money, too. Studies in six states show that public
funds pay up to 82 percent of the costs to treat orthopedic injuries sustained
by motorcyclists. A Maryland study showed that acute care costs to non-
helmeted riders averaged three times those of helmeted riders. As of 1994,
Maryland’s Developmental Disabilities Administration was paying an average of
$62,500 for each of 18 former motorcyclists who require life long day and
residential services; that amounts to more than $1.1 million a year. “Life
long” may be 20 to 30 years, according to the Maryland Office of Health Care
Policy, Finance and Mental Hygiene. In these days of tight budgets, a
dispassionate financial analysis indicates that helmet laws make good
A partial law is almost as bad as no law at all. Statistically speaking,
there is negligible difference in death and injury rates between states with
no helmet law and states with partial laws. Because partial helmet laws are
difficult for police to enforce, helmet use rates for all riders remain low in
states with restricted helmet laws.
Helmet law opponents love to talk about motorcyclists’ right to decide
whether or not they will wear helmets, but some rights are not worth having.
In 1992, the last year Maryland was without a helmet law in force, 52 riders
died and 1,130 were injured. In 1997, the most recent year for which
statistics are available, 24 motorcyclists died and 690 were injured. Even
with nearly 1000 more motorcyclists registered in Maryland in 1997 than were
registered in 1992, deaths and injuries were greatly reduced. To weaken
Maryland’s helmet law is to condemn 28 – or more – Maryland motorcyclists to
death. That’s a right nobody should have.
Government Employees Insurance Company
5260 Western Ave
Washington, DC 2007-0001