According to recent findings, injuries and deaths increase in states where mandatory helmet laws are weakened or eliminated.

Advocacy groups that push for the elimination of mandatory helmet laws, such as the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and American Bikers Aimed Toward Education of Michigan, make claims that other factors account for the increase in the volume and severity of serious injuries and deaths in states where helmets are no longer required.

However, the data shows an irrefutable correlation between the repeal of mandatory helmet laws and the spike in the number of motorcycle injuries and their severity.

Nationally, motorcycle deaths have risen in 14 of the past 15 years, with more than 5,000 deaths last year, according to an analysis by the Governors Highway Safety Association of preliminary 2012 data.

Many rider advocacy groups fight to remove mandatory helmet laws, claiming that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle should be an individual choice and not mandated by law. They often claim, however, that riders still choose to wear helmets even when they’re not required to do so.

However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sent observers to states last year to count how many motorcyclists wore helmets, 97 percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were wearing helmets compared with 58 percent of motorcyclists in states without such coverage.

Despite claims to the contrary, helmet use saves lives. Furthermore, an individual choosing to ride without a helmet has implications beyond their own lives. Insurance rates and the overall cost to society goes up when they crash because the severity of their injuries imposes a larger financial burden passed on to the rest of us. Wearing a helmet is more than a matter of individual freedom.