The Helmet Law – To Be or Not To Be

Since there is no law that requires people to ride motorcycles we can surmise the main reason we ride is because we want to. We can also surmise, from our own experiences, riding is risky business. We can also surmise, from all the media hype, motorcycle riding costs the States and the Insurance Companies lots of money and we are all ultimately going to die from riding motorcycles… or can we?

We are told the increasing number or rider related accidents have placed an undue burden on the health care system. We are told that wearing a helmet will save our lives… I think these, and other related statements are false. The below is from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation in Washington, DC and are a compilation of facts retrieved from the Center for Disease Control, US Census Bureau, Nation Highway Transportation and Safety Administration and other national agencies. Data outlined below is not intended to argue against or for helmet use, but I believe it demonstrates that a mandatory helmet law is not the solution to motorcycle safety.

helmet-law

Fact 1 – A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control demonstrated that of the 14,283 motorcycle fatalities which occurred nationwide between 2008 and 2010, 8,226, or 57.6% were wearing helmets when they were killed.

Fact 2 – According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, in 2009, 20 states and the District of Columbia accounted for 40% of total motorcycle registrations and 42 % of total motorcycle fatalities nationwide even though they had mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. The other 30 states which either allowed adult riders to choose whether to wear a helmet or simply had no law at all accounted for 60% of total motorcycle registrations and 58% of motorcycle fatalities.

Fact 3 – Reports that assert that motorcycle fatalities have nearly doubled since 2000 fail to take into account the increase in registered motorcycles. If you take into consideration the increase in registered motorcycles, then you will see motorcycle accidents per registered motorcycle have actually decreased since 2000, or at the very least, have remained relatively unchanged. In 2000, there were 2,862 fatalities for 4,903,000 motorcycles registered. That comes to 0.058% of registered motorcycles were involved in a fatal accident. In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. That comes to 0.053% of registered motorcycles were involved in a fatal accident.

Fact 3 – Given the lack of information available as to the causes of death in motorcycle fatalities, measuring the overall life-saving effectiveness of motorcycle helmets is speculative at best. J. Lee Annest, Ph.D., M.S., Director, Office of Statistics and Programming for the CDC has admitted that the CDC does not have motorcyclist injury deaths tabulated by body region/part nor is he aware of anyone that does. He further admits that with deaths, there are usually multiple injuries and the primary body part affected is often difficult to determine.

Fact 4 – States that allow adults to choose whether to wear a motorcycle helmet do not see higher motor vehicle insurance rates. Conversely, states that have mandatory motorcycle helmet laws do not experience higher motor vehicle insurance rates. Of the top five most expensive states for motor vehicle insurance four have mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. Of the five least expensive states for motor vehicle insurance only one has a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. To take it even further, only two of the ten cheapest states for motor vehicle insurance have mandatory helmet laws. The other eight states either allow adults to choose for themselves or, as in the case of Iowa, simply have no law at all.

Fact 5 – States that allow adults to choose whether to wear a motorcycle helmet do not experience increased health care related costs. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study of daily inpatient hospital expenses by state. Of the twelve most expensive states for daily inpatient hospital expenses seven had mandatory helmet laws. Of the twelve least expensive for daily inpatient hospital expenses only four had mandatory helmet laws. The other eight states either allow adults to choose for themselves or, as in the case of Iowa, simply have no law at all.

So, decide for yourself. Whether you wear a helmet or not means nothing to me. Sometimes I wear one and sometimes I don’t. Given that this is my right I take it as my right to decide. If you take the media hype at face value then all motorcycle riders are destined to die a horrible death. But, if you do the research yourself and make your own decision you will see it is all hype.

Many motorcycle related accidents can be cataloged into two categories—the first being a rider with more bike than sense orchestrates a bonehead stunt and pays the price (these are a very small percentage of rider and the fact is they are probably lousy cagers too), the second are due to cagers who do not take the time to look or who think talking or texting on their phone is more important than maintaining positive control of their cage. Granted, there are other accidents like hitting a deer and/or a blown tire, but these pale in comparison to the two previously mentioned categories.

So, if you are really concerned about my wellbeing then I suggest you arrest every cager who talks or texts on the phone and let me expend a warning shot at every cager who does not see me just before they run me off the road; they don’t see me because they don’t look. I bet if I fired a round their direction they would see me then.

Ride free and ride often and don’t beleive what you read on a bumper sticker.

About stevebriscoe

Retired Armed Forces and a lifelong rider of the iron horse. The solitude of riding is a freedom that cannot be explained. During a ride down the endless road there are two things to do; think and look for State Troopers. It’s the thoughts that will appear here.
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