Lori Fullbright, News On 6
UNDATED -- More than 4,000 people died in motorcycle crashes last year in America. That's twice as many as a decade ago.
So, the National Transportation Safety Board says it's critical that every state require every motorcycle rider to wear a helmet.
Most states, like Oklahoma, have some type of helmet law. Oklahoma's law requires only people 17 and younger to wear one. The feds say that must change because the number of people dying on motorcycles is more than all the people who die in planes, trains, boats and in pipeline accidents combined.
"We can talk 'til we're blue in the face about people wearing helmets and the safety of helmets while riding motorcycles, but until you see the devastati8on, it doesn't mean something. I think it'll mean a lot more when you see it," said Lieutenant George Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Fatalities are not just on the rise across the nation; the same is true in Oklahoma. In 2001, 35 people died in motorcycle crashes. That jumped to 42 in 2003 and jumped again in 2006, up to 61. By 2008, 87 people were killed and just last year, that number crossed the 100 mark at 105.
"The worst part about our job is we get to knock on doors and tell someone that someone they love has been killed in a crash," Lieutenant Brown said.
Troopers say they are for anything that makes people safer, even a federal law that requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet.
News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright did a demonstration showing the dangers of riding a motorcycle with an unprotected head. She tossed a melon out of car going only 35 miles an hour. It bounced, then split in two.
Often, it's not the motorcycle driver who's at fault. They can do everything right and still be killed in a crash.
"What we hate to see are those fatality crashes where you pick up the motorcycle and a helmet is attached to the bike," Lieutenant Brown said. "That is very common."
In another demonstration, the melon was strapped inside a motorcycle helmet and chunked it against the tree.
"Pefectly intact," Lieutenant Brown said.
Troopers say ask any family member who's had a loved one killed in a motorcycle crash and they'll tell you safety should trump personal choice or comfort anytime. There are many Oklahomans, however, who know all the statistics and still don't want to be told they have to wear a helmet.
The National Transportation Safety Board plans to pressure governors and state lawmakers to pass a mandatory helmet law for all motorcyclists.