Wearing a motorcycle helmet should not be mandatory, but it is smart

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A motorcycle helmet sits on the pavement.

Wearing a motorcycle helmet shouldn't be a law, but it is smart. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Teosaurio/Wikipedia)

Numerous studies indicate that many lives are saved by motorcycle helmet laws. Yet there remains a large contingent of riders who prefer not to wear a motorcycle helmet, and insist that the law should not require it. Nanny state arguments aside, however, the risk of brain injuries and more in the event of a traffic accident make using a helmet advisable, regardless of whether you agree with the law.

Why wear a motorcycle helmet?

Any honest rider will tell you that a motorcycle helmet does nothing for them in terms of fashion and may restrict vision under certain circumstances, yet a helmet with shield can also reduce glare and shield the rider’s eyes from wind and foreign objects. Then there’s the matter of law. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – whose represented industry certain has a financial stake in whether motorcyclists wear helmets – notes that there are currently only three states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire) that do not have a motorcycle helmet law in place. Rest assured that the insurance industry as a whole would like to see those states toe the legal line, for no real sense of caring for the health of individuals, but for their own risk exposure concerns. In a state with motorcycle helmet laws, a rider faces the threat of losing their license if they do not comply.

So why wear a motorcycle helmet? If the above reasons aren’t enough persuasion, then the potential for head injuries among even experienced riders should give anyone pause for reflection. Forget about laws, which are often transparently tied to the profit-mongering wishes of big business. Riding without a motorcycle element means that you are assuming tremendous risk. Yes, it should be a rider’s right to go without a helmet in a free society, but consider what can happen when a rider’s bare head strikes metal, glass or pavement at high speed. The brain is thrown about within the skull, which can result in permanently life-altering brain injuries. Excessive swelling and bleeding can lead to death, and related spinal injuries can result in complete paralysis. In all examples, quality of life is severely impacted, all because the rider chose to exercise what they believe should be their right as a free citizen.

Motorcycle helmet safety statistics

Statistically speaking, motorcycle helmet use is an essential element of motorcycle safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted in 1991 that motorcycle-helmeted riders have a 73 percent lower fatality rate than helmet-free riders, and helmeted riders have as much as an 85 percent chance of avoiding the more serious injuries associated with motorcycle accidents.

Numerous sources indicate that little has changed to sway these statistics over the past 20 years. Yet two significant things have changed: the amount of traffic on the road and the technology of motorcycle helmets. They’re lighter, they provide even greater visibility and cooling and they absorb shock better than ever.

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Money saved, organs donated

While it’s true that much of this applies to a corrupt insurance industry, a 2010 U.S. federal study notes that the used of motorcycle helmets actually saved $3 billion, in no small part due to what lawmakers claim are fewer deaths since mandatory helmet laws went into place. The Centers for Disease Control claim that motorcycle helmet use saved $394 million in California, where all motorcyclists must use the headgear, and around $2.6 million in New Mexico, where only those under age 18 are required to wear a helmet.

“Another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets,” claimed CDC Director Thomas Frieden.

Compared the above evidence with the statistics in the three states without motorcycle helmet laws. Seventy-nine percent of motorcyclists killed weren’t wearing helmets, compared with 12 percent in states that do require helmet use.

There’s a twisted flip-side to the money-saving equation when it comes to wearing (or not wearing) motorcycle helmets. A Michigan State University Study in 2000 found that when states jettisoned motorcycle helmet laws, organ donations increased by 10 percent. The hearts, livers and kidneys of helmet-free riders saved lives.

So, while it is easy to argue that no government should have the legal right to force motorcycle riders to protect themselves – as their lack of a helmet in no way impinges upon the inalienable rights of others – the risk a rider assumes when going helmet free seems obvious.

Wear an Iron Man motorcycle helmet

Sources

Auto Evolution

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org/laws/HelmetUseCurrent.aspx

The Kansas City Star

Reuters

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