One month ago, Dawn Miller's world was turned upside down. Her husband, Jeff, had been involved in a serious motorcycle accident and was rushed to the hospital with multiple skull fractures.
"I got here and I just had to see him. I just had to see him," Miller said.
Now she spends her days in the intensive care unit by Jeff's side. The former semi-pro football player, affectionately known as "House," is bedridden and frequently forgets what put him in the hospital.
"It's very hard. He's my best friend. We do everything together and it's weird not having him there," Miller said.
Although Jeff teaches helmet safety, he chose to wear what's called a "skid lid" -- or novelty helmet. It did not meet federal safety standards.
"Could it have prevented some of the injuries that he has? Absolutely. Absolutely. It would have made a difference," Miller said.
There have been 11 motorcycle fatalities in Vermont this year. Nearly half of those riders were not wearing DOT compliant helmets.
"That's a significant increase over the last couple of years, so that's concerning to us as well," said Vermont State Police Lt. John Flannigan.
Yet police say hundreds of riders take the risk -- ignoring warning labels -- in an attempt to skirt Vermont's helmet laws. But these "skull caps" are illegal and give police probable cause to ticket riders. "This helmet provides really no protection. It's the same as wearing no helmet," Lt. Flannigan said.
In contrast, DOT compliant helmets are made of hard plastic, weigh about three pounds and have 1.5 inches of foam lining. They cost upwards of 100 dollars.
"They're not the most attractive helmets out there, but the deal is you only get one brain and one chance," Miller said.
Vermont motorcycle registrations have gone up 55-percent in the last decade. With more riders on the road, police say wearing the right gear is critical. A message the Miller family hopes hits home.
"If us telling our story prevents another person from having to be in this situation where he is -- and their family -- to having to go through what we're going through, then it's worth it," Miller said.
Sunday, March 9 2014 2:52 PM EDT2014-03-09 18:52:05 GMT
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