Mandatory Helmet Laws Reduce … Theft

What happens when a government enacts and enforces a mandatory helmet law for motorcycle riders? According to criminologists, a reduction in motorbike theft follows. The 1989 study Motorcycle Theft, Helmet Legislation and Displacement by Mayhew et al. (paywalled, see Wikpedia summary) demonstrated this effect empirically looking at crime figures from Germany, where not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle is being fined since 1980. This lead to a 60% drop in motorcycle theft – interestingly, with limited compensation by increases in other types of vehicle theft.

The plausible explanation: motorcycle thieves incur higher risk of being caught when riding without a helmet after a spontaneous, opportunistic theft. Adaptation is possible but costly and risky, too: looking for loot with a helmet in one’s hand is more conspicious, and preparing specifically to steal bicycles reduces flexibility and narrows the range of possible targets.