• May 17th 2009 at 6:15PM
  • 135
Few issues out on the open road are as divisive as helmet laws for motorcycle riders. On the one hand, you have individual liberty advocates – many motorcyclists among them – insisting that the government can't tell riders what's best for them. On the other are safety advocates, armed with evidence of increased fatalities where helmets aren't mandatory. Now the Missouri state legislature has sent a bill to the governor that would, if signed into law, repeal the state's mandatory helmet regulations.

Many states caved to federal government pressure, in the form of withheld highway funding, to institute helmet laws. Of the 50 states in the Union, 20 currently mandate helmets for all riders, 27 require them only for riders under a certain age, while the remaining three have no laws regarding helmet use whatsoever. The Missouri bill would take the state out of the first category and place it into the middle (not the last), mandating that riders under 21 wear helmets and that all riders wear helmets when traveling on the interstate, leaving adult riders free to ride unprotected on local streets. This revision to the law would expire on August 28, 2014, requiring state lawmakers to review the situation afresh, otherwise the mandate would automatically go back into effect.

While it should come as no surprise that Missouri's highway safety director is vehemently opposed to the bill, the governor has yet to voice an opinion on the matter, pledging to review the bill once the legislative session has ended. Do you think motorcycle riders should be forced by law to wear helmets? Voice your opinion in the comments section below, and if you live in Missouri, who knows, maybe the governor will take your thoughts to heart.

[Source: 1st5ive.com | Image: Joseph Lago/AFP/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Jimbo, it's called sarcasm which is all I felt you deserved.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm not sure I understand your argument. Full body protection is not relevant to head impacts. If your math worked out nobody would survive. How do you explain the excellent survival rate of competition motorcyclists? Not just Moto GP, but WSBK, AMA, AMF, and countless amateurs myself included. Your calculations simply do not correlate to the real world.
        • 6 Years Ago
        cdwrx: You mentioned that people survive wrecks in MotoGP, etc. The reason they survive at those speeds is due to their full body protection. By your logic, they could wipe out wearing nothing but a helmet and walk away relatively unscathed. That's simply not true. Not all motorcycle deaths are caused by head injury. The problem with death statistics and motorcycles is that it is difficult to determine whether the death was caused by a head injury or another type of injury. As I pointed out in my earlier post, the link you referenced connecting head injuries and deaths is using flawed logic. And even if you don't want to believe my math, there still is no way to link the deaths in that study to deaths caused by head injury.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm not sure how I'm mis-characterizing your argument.
        1. I was talking about head injuries, specifically concussions.
        2. You brought up MotoGP and other racing as evidence that helmets save, even at higher speeds.
        3. I mentioned that not all potential deaths would be caused by head injuries (racing or not) and that racers have much more protection that allow them to survive higher speed wrecks.

        My point is this: if you get in a wreck on a bike, whether racing or not, perpendicular or parallel, you have a pretty good chance at dying. I'm saying that the use of helmets doesn't necessarily improve your odds of survival. It doesn't hurt your odds, and if you want to wear, one fine. They may save you from being horribly disfigured. But the evidence showing their benefit in saving lives just isn't there.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That was supposed to be a reply to Jimbo. D'oh!
        • 6 Years Ago
        CDWRX, modern gear is great, but I would give huge credit to modern circuit design with runoff and gravel traps. Also, do not forget the track corner workers. Public roads are definitely not designed with motorcyclist needs top of mind. I always wear my gear, but I know crash avoidance is the key. An ounce of prevention...
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Some men you just can't reach..."

        1.a) You stated that it is not possible to survive an accident of 30mph or greater due to a fatal concussion. I'm showing you that in a controlled environment (but not half as controlled as your calculations imply) at speeds in extreme excess of 30mph, survival is not only possible but more likely than not. You say that physics dictates survival impossible. I really think you need to concede this point.
        1.b) You say there is no proof helmets save lives. In this specific MotoGP scenario I will agree, simply because it is highly unlikely to get the riders to re-enact their crash without a helmet. Even these non-physicists understand they would not have survived their falls without a helmet. However this is where the Florida data comes in.

        Debate-wise, I can understand your strategy. It is a good one and has worked for politicians forever; mis-characterize, obfuscate, and if necessary wear down the electorate until they've given up. Hat's off.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is mandating the use of safety belts "absolutely stupid" as well then?
        • 6 Years Ago
        cdwrx, that's fine and dandy that your skull will be intact. But your neck probably won't. Not to mention the concussion would be quite severe and potentially fatal. Busting open your skull is just one way to die in a motorcycle accident.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Just like it is a case with seatbelts, helmets laws a statistics-driven. And statistics shows that more people die without a helmet than with the one over their melons.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jimbo, are you kidding? Snell helmets are tested to withstand a 300g impact - twice - in the same spot. That's far more than your skull is rated at.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It amazes me the lengths people will go to maintain their precious world view about politics. Sorry, but anecdotal evidence in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence is the last resort. Or so I would hope.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jimbo, please feel free to ride without your helmet. And please drive without your seatbelt, drunk if you would. Also, could you please take a long walk off a short bridge all the while holding your Republican registration card since Democrats would never allow you to do those things and would lie to you abut why they are not good for you and VERY costly to the society that you would affecting with your dumbass decisions.

        I, however, am willing to eat the costs in your particular case.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Seatbelts are lifesaving because they confine a person to be within a vehicle's crash structure rather than being ejected. The problem with motorcycles is that there is no crash structure; the rider either gets thrown from the bike or ground against the road. Either way a helmet isn't going to do much to save you.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Vegas...couldn't come up with an intelligent way to refute logic, huh?. At least cdwrx and I were having a semi-intelligent debate. You start spouting off about Democrats and Republicans while comparing drunk driving to not wearing a helmet? That makes no sense whatsoever. Driving drunk is likely to cause the death of someone else. Riding without a helmet can only kill you. Hmmm...which is the greater menace to society? And if you can show some valid statistics that show that the number of deaths due to head injury are decreased by using helmets, then I'll be glad to listen to you. At least cdwrx tried.

        And cdwrx, don't take any of my comments too personal. I'm just enjoying the debate.
        • 6 Years Ago
        cdwrx:. The data in that study doesn't support the conclusions. Look at Figure 1. From 1999 to 2000, the number of registrations increased by 6.25% and the number of deaths >20 increased by 46.8%. However this number is misleading since the helmet law wasn't repealed until July 2000. This study didn't differentiate the number of fatalities in 2000 before and after the regulations were repealed. A more accurate assessment would be to compare 1999 to 2001. In 2001, the number of registrations increased by 19.6% and the number of deaths >20 increased by 6.4%.

        Also, from 1994-1999, the number of deaths >20/registration was 0.76 +/- 0.07. In 2001, it was 0.82, well within the standard deviation of 1994-1999. Based on these numbers, the use of helmets had no difference in the number of deaths >20.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If you're riding a motorcycle without a helmet, there's probably nothing inside that head that is worth saving.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well said and probably the best comment here.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Icon, that is quite possibly the dumbest logic I've heard in a topic frequented by dumb logic.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually Tim,

        its the guys wearing the helmets that are raising the cost of insurance. when a motorcyclist doesn't wear a helmet and has an accident, his chances of being dead on the scene are huge. however when they wear a helmet, the brain is protected, meaning you end up with perfectly protected brains connected to mangled bodies... this is where the medial bills get expensive. guys that have to learn to walk or have there legs completely reconstructed.

        repeal the law, increase revenue for the state in the form of more organized Harley rallies, (Harley riders don't like going to states with helmet laws), and keep the human race headed in the right direction through Darwinism, lets get the dumb sh*ts off the road... I do ride a motorcycle, and i wear all my gear, all the time, doesn't matter if it is to run to the corner store for milk, or a 105 degree day, if it's to hot for gear it's to hot to ride.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Fine, don't wear a helmet just carry a minimum of 20K in health insurance, preferrably 50K and if you choose not to wear a helmet you MUST BE A REGISTERED ORGAN DONOR. Otherwise, you're wasting some perfectly good heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, corneas, etc. Seriously, if you're an idiot who can't treasure the body that they have, at least let someone else use your left over parts to reclaim something they deserve more than you do.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If these morons want to kill themselves, then let 'em.

      Before they are allowed to ride without helmets, them MUST tattoo a waiver on their backs that allows the ambulance to drop off their vegetative bodies on the front porch of their nearest relative's house.

      Taxpayers will not pay for their care or their rehabilitation or their funeral expenses.

      If you have the right to turn yourself into a vegetable, then we the taxpayers have the right not to pay for your care.
        • 6 Years Ago
        cdwrx: Bogus? Hardly. Ok, my numbers for 1999-2000 were off. The article states that there was a 8.1% increase in registration and a 45.5% increase in fatalities in 2000. As I said, those numbers are misleading because it doesn't separate out the fatalities from January-June vs July-December (after the helmet rules were changed). Without that distinction, you cannot make a valid conclusion.

        The 2001 numbers are still correct. Registration skyrocketed while the year-to-year increase in fatalities was no worse than 1994-1995 or 1996-1997. And the deaths >20/registration 2001 falls within the same range of values as 1994-1999. There no evidence in this report that conclusively establishes a link between fatalities and helmet use.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Here you go MajorGeek,

        Florida experienced a 48.6% increase in motorcyclist fatalities the year after repealing their helmet law. What now?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Wow Jimbo, that's bogus. Registration increased 33% from 1999 to 2001 while deaths increased 57% in that same time period.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Skewed numbers, since the law was passed in 200, why is the data used from 97-2001? Simple, they added in years with most fatalities to make it look bad. Politics.

        Again, read this and realize it was 2000 when passed:

        "Between 1997 and 2001, nationwide motorcycle rider fatalities increased by 50% while motorcycle registrations increased by 31%."

        I will end this by saying I am disappointed in almost all of you and will stop posting here. I feel name calling is only for people who have nothing of value to add, or for those who want to be all manly. Most of you failed to have a discussion in any way, shape or form. If this was my website, I would have deleted most of your comments. The fact that so many responded with name calling, and total lack of moderation on this website, has me moving on. Well, that and the news articles here are starting to suck. Autoblog, feel free to delete my account... oh wait, you don't do any maintenance or moderation here.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Everyone has missed one important point:

      Helmets protect against distractions like flying rocks and bugs and rain, which minimally can hurt when they hit you, and maximally, can startle you and cause you to lose control and thus potentially affect other traffic.

      Flying rocks are a TYPICAL and likely occurrence on the highway.

      Furthermore, corneal injuries and hearing loss are also far more likely.

      Regardless of the status of the "law", anyone who doesn't wear a helmet (a real one -- with a visor!) is a complete idiot, and looks like a fool. It's so "not cool" looking IMHO. We have no helmet law in my state, and fatalities are WAY up now.

      I wear my helmet 100% of the time, no matter how short or far my ride, and no matter how slow or fast I'm going (even at 15 mph through the city), and no matter how hot it is outside. I've had two slow-speed accidents in the city, and my helmet saved me twice. ANY collision between your head and the road, even at 0 mph is BAD NEWS. Once these morons go down themselves, they'll soon learn.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have no problem with people making personal decisions but why does no one address the potential problems a 'personal decison' can have on society? Such as increased medical care costs (doubly if you have not health insurance) and when someone does something stupid and you sue them there are costs incurred by the courts?

      Here is a modest proposal. You sign a 'Helmet Exemption', you can go without a helmet if you so desisire, but you give up the right to sue anyone for head injuries you recieve for not wearing a helmet.

      This would see to address both sides and allow you to have more PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. As we know more responsibility always comes at a cost so this would see pretty fair to every one.

        • 6 Years Ago
        An lastly I forgot to say...

        You can have your exemption when you also show proof of health insurance.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This separating interstate and non-interstate riding sounds really dumb. Mandate or not, pick one.
      • 6 Years Ago
      When I get a motorcycle, you bet your arse I'll wear a helmet.

      However, mandating helmets is absolutely stupid. If someone wants to play Russian Roulette with the pavement, let them. It's their life and their choice.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Helmets don't just project people when they go splat on the ground. They also protect the head from the small debris that litters today's roadways. I've been hit in the head on more than one occasion by a small rock or cigarette butt at 70+ miles per hour and without a helmet (full faced) there is a good chance i would have lost control of my bike and crashed. In situations like these, a helmet didn't just save my head, it saved my bike, my life and perhaps the lives of those i would have crashed into... Helmets are a very good idea.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Not really. It runes the firefighter's dinner to scrape your brains off the pavement and it costs others who ride on the road. So no, you cannot leave up to the idiots to decide what to do.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Soccer Mom, how many firefighters have had to scrape off the remains of individuals in bad wrecks - even wearing seatbelts? Would you suggest we stop driving cars?

        How many times have firefighters discovered charred bodies of children and families in house fires? Would you suggest we get rid of houses?

        I am having trouble following the logic of your statement. If I were a rider, I'd wear a helmet to possibly save my life - not for the sake of a responding firefighter?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I always thought you could compromise on this. Let them do it for summer months, and tax the hell out of them for the privilege to do it. Everyone wins!
      • 6 Years Ago
      The most important freedom there is is the right to be stupid so long as you don't hurt someone else in the process.

      The Helmet (and seat belt law for that matter) are prime examples of the right to be stupid while not hurting others.

      The government does not have a mandate to protect you from yourself. The moment it does, is the moment when we are now Soviet Russia and we better all fight hard against such an evil empire. The helmet law is just one such example.

      Since the US still (for now) doesn't have government mandated universal health care, the government doesn't have an interest in this issue. If they want to protect people under 18 (like NH does) that's fine. That's protecting them from their parents in most cases, and I'm ok with that. But adults have the right to decide for themselves.

      That they become organ donors most of the time is irrelevant to the question. Doctors are paid to take the organs out and shouldn't complain because people with brains still in their heads benefit. "it's horrible to see them in this state" is not an excuse for Doctors to force people to be safe. If it was, we'd lock our kids in boxes for 18 years to prevent every scrape in bone break. We'd ban skydiving and various other "dangerous" sports because Doctors don't have the stomach for it. Doctors not liking the carnage is not justification for a police state forcing you to live your life the way they dictate.

      The question is does the government have the right to tell you how to live your own life if you do not hurt someone else in the process? The answer clearly is NO. This is the ONE AND ONLY question that matters in this debate. Everything else is irrelevant until you can justify a YES answer, which there is no justification for in the United States of America.

      Dogooders: Go home and start an education campaign if you can't stand people being stupid. But you don't have the right to force people to your way of thinking. You must CONVINCE them to your position. Anything else is laziness and the beginning of fascism.
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