Motorcycle Helmet Laws Save Lives, but Not Very Many

A new study reported in the American Journal of Public Health finds that the repeal of motorcycle helmet requirements for adults has been associated with an increase in motorcycle fatalities, beyond the general increase that has been seen throughout the country in the last decade or so. Although the researchers argue that their study reinforces the case for universal helmet laws, the impact they found looks pretty modest:

On average, when compared to state experience with no helmet mandate, universal helmet laws were associated with an 11.1% reduction in motorcyclist fatality rates, whereas rates in states with partial coverage statutes [applying only to riders younger than 21] were not statistically different from those with no helmet law. Furthermore, in the states in which recent repeals of universal coverage have been instituted, the motorcyclist fatality rate increased by an average of 12.2% over what would have been expected had universal coverage been maintained. Since 1997, an additional 615 motorcyclist fatalities have occurred in these states as a result of these changes in motorcycle helmet laws.

In terms of fatalities prevented each year, the effect estimated by this study is not very impressive. In 2004, for example, "an estimated 135 (or 5.8%) fewer fatalities would have occurred" in the 31 states without universal helmet laws had those states forced adult motorcyclists to wear head protection. That's just a handful of fatalities per state each year.

Previous research has indicated that helmet laws do substantially increase the percentage of motorcyclists who wear helmets. The fatality numbers probably are so small for two main reasons. First, riding a motorcycle, while much more dangerous than driving a car, is also much less common, so there are only 4,300 or so total motorcycle fatalities each year, one-tenth of all road fatalities. Second, helmets are only partly effective at preventing deaths: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in the event of a crash they cut the chances of a fatality by about 35 percent (compared to a 60 percent reduction for motorists who wear seat belts).

Even the undramatic results of this study may overestimate the impact of helmet laws. To the researchers' credit, instead of doing a simple before-and-after comparison in a single state or a few states, they looked at accident data from all 50 states and D.C. for 1975 through 2004. They took into account the general upward trend in motorcycle deaths since 1996 and several potential confounding variables, including other traffic-related laws, weather patterns, alcohol consumption, population density, and the age breakdown of each state's population. But since the outcome measure they used was fatalities per 10,000 registered motorcycles, they did not take into account miles traveled. That could matter if motorcyclists who hate helmets start riding more often or longer distances once they are no longer required to wear them. In that case, some of the increase in deaths could be due to an increase in miles traveled. Another possible factor: If people who stopped riding motorcycles because they were irked by a helmet requirement suddenly start riding them again once the requirement is repealed, the percentage of motorcyclists who are out of shape and out of practice might increase, which could independently raise the frequency of crashes.

Some anti-helmet-law activists argue that helmets, on balance, decrease motorcycle safety by making riders more reckless, making their heads heavier, or impairing their hearing, peripheral vision, and sensitivity to air pressure changes. There isn't much evidence to support that claim, and I have little doubt that helmet laws reduce fatalities to some extent. It just does not seem to be a very big effect, which is one reason opponents of these laws have been so successful at rolling them back and preventing legislators from reimposing them. In principle, the fatality numbers shouldn't matter: The right to ride without a helmet should not hinge on exactly how big the risk is. But practical politics is rarely about principle, a point illustrated by the contrast between helmet and seat belt laws that I drew in reason a few years ago.

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  • Captain America||

    Helmets suck because they limit one's ability to hear and see. And yes, miles traveled would have been a useful, as would rural v. urban.

    Oh and helmet or not, do not ride in Atlanta.

  • ||

    I would be more interested in any increase in health care costs associated with NON-fatal injuries. That would negatively impact (eeewwwww . . .) the insurance premiums all riders pay. Helmets are a good thing, IMO

  • Captain America||

    From what I've read, cost comparisons show that helmet wearers become money-draining quads, helmetless riders, organ donors.

  • Phillip Conti||

    I wear a helmet every time I visit reason.com

  • Damien Katz||

    Fatalities isn't the whole story, there is also survivable head and brain trauma, which can be far worse on families in many cases than outright death. Those are harder statistics to come by as they aren't tracked nearly as rigorously as deaths, but I'd wager helmets prevent brain damage in significant numbers.

  • Travis||

    This is sort of the same thing as activists who campaign for lower speed limits on highways because there are fewer fatalities. It sounds nice until you learn lower speed limits don't lower the number of accidents. I use to be an EMT and have seen the results of car & motorcycle accidents believe me sometimes you're better off dying.

  • Rimfax||

    Jacob, are you the "pursuit of happiness" guy at Reason? You seem to get all the stories about petty prohibitions against arguably dubious personal choices that are made for personal pleasure.

  • Rimfax||

    I used to be immersed in the American motorcycle culture and the argument that I heard frequently was that helmets increase the chance of severe neck injuries offsetting the reduced chance of brain injury. This is a long-winded echo of Captain America, above. Quadriplegic or rutabaga? Though, I haven't seen compelling evidence to support the neck injury argument.

  • ||

    If you drive a motorcycle sans protective head gear, you're an idiot. I don't want to hear about restricted visibility and hearing loss from wearing a helmet. The fact remains you are safer with a helmet than without.

    Now that my safety shpiel is out of the way, helmet laws, like seatbelt laws, are an unacceptable infringement of the right to stupidity. You don't want to wear one, I'll respect your right to choose, if not your choice.

  • ||

    If it saves just one life...

    ...especially when it's the life of a quarterback.

  • Rimfax||

    The "kind of states with limited (or no) helmet laws" hypothesis doesn't look good. California, with an "all rider" law, may very well have the majority of motorcycle miles in the country. They out-populate all of the other sunbelt states and have been riding weather.

  • Rimfax||

    ...better riding weather.

  • ||

    Imagine a device that would cut our combat deaths in Iraq by 11.1%. I suspect that that device would be implemented rather quickly.

    As to whether 615 extra deaths is "not very many", it would be nice to know the states involved. About half of all Americans live in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. If these states recently repealed helmet laws, the 615 deaths is (maybe) not that many. If not, then not so much.

  • Taktix®||

    Hear hear, MP!

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    TWC is walking around proof that a well constructed motorcycle helmet can save your life. My children are eternally grateful to that Grant Daytona (Snell Foundation Approved) for without it they wouldn't exist and neither would I.

    That said, I am absolutely against mandatory helmet laws.

    Interesting side anecdote. When I was a lad there was a kid who gave me shit constantly about being a sis and wearing a helmet. About half way through our junior year of high school he was killed by somebody's mom, who ran a stop sign and broadsided his motorcycle. Cause of death? Massive head trauma resulting from the sidewalk turning his head into a squished watermelon.

    I took little satisfaction in his demise but the lesson was clear.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    This is sort of the same thing as activists who campaign for lower speed limits on highways

    I hate those people. CalTrans finally modernizes a high traffic semi-rural highway in our area. Four lanes, not much cross traffic, 65 mph speed limit. Three months later and old man gets killed trying to cross this four lane highway, just after dawn, in the middle of nowhere. Immediately, they all come out of the woodwork screaming for lower speed limits.

    Like he wouldn't have gotten killed crossing a four lane heavily traveled highway by traffic moving 55 mph.

    They settled on 60 as the speed limit.

  • ||

    "From what I've read, cost comparisons show that helmet wearers become money-draining quads, helmetless riders, organ donors."

    Organ donors or not, Florida's helmet law says you can ride helmetless...if you have health insurance. That tidies up the "burden on health care" argument.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Helmets suck because they limit one's ability to hear and see

    I can see that with full face helmets, which I never wore. I was so used to riding with a helmet that the few times I've ridden without one, I found the wind noise in my ears made it especially difficult to hear.

    Have the same problem in the hot rod boat, you get that baby cranking and you can't hear anything except vee-drive whine, wind noise, and exhaust roar.

  • learned \'em good||

    I took little satisfaction in his demise but the lesson was clear.

    Yeah: never taunt anyone you wouldn't want standing over your bloody corpse yelling "who's the sissy now, mutha-fuckah!" For him, that's called learning a lesson the hard way.

  • ||

    Helmets suck because they limit one's ability to hear and see

    That's unmitigated bullshit. If anything, the full face helmet makes it easier to hear and see by cutting out the wind in my ears and eyes.

    Everybody who rides: go visit ride2die.com. You'll head over to your local leather store tomorrow.

  • ||

    With you all the way, J sub and TWC. My personal experience is with bicycles rather than motorcycles - we have the same endless god-damned debate about helmets and safety, just at 20mph rather than 60. (Although at least legislators stay out of it for the most part; mandatory helmet laws generally apply only to kids and bike messengers.)

    The 'helmets make people more reckless' argument has never really made sense to me - anyone who would behave more rashly just because they have a couple of pounds of plastic wrapped around their noggin probably isn't the type to wear a helmet anyhow.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    standing over your bloody corpse yelling "who's the sissy now, mutha-fuckah!"

    Okay, I lied. :-) I didn't see the corpse but that sentence did cross my lips a couple of times in conversation with my buddies.

  • ||

    Helmets are for pussies. If you are willing to die for the experience of riding free (as I once was), then you have to be willing to pay the price. If not, you shouldn't be riding the bike in the first place (as I now am not).

  • matt||

    I always wear a helmet & gloves, and if I'm out of the neighborhood, it's an armored jacket and leg protection as well. This is because I'm not an idiot. That said, it's no one else's business whether or not I want to risk it by going without.

    Interestingly enough, the one time I can remember being on a public road without a helmet was the only time I've been pulled over on my bike - I was moving it from the parking lot to a spot on the street (200 yds or so) and didn't bother with a helmet. Like a true e-libertarian, I explained and apologized instead of arguing the finer points of individual liberty, and got off with a verbal warning instead of a fine.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I'm ignoring the piles of papers on my desk and did a quick look at death stats.

    Motorcycles account for 2% of all registered vehicles and 0.4% of all miles traveled in the U.S., but motorcycle accidents account for over 9% of traffic fatalities.

    Per mile driven, motorcyclists are about 32 times more likely to die in an accident than people riding in cars.

    Head injury is a leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists without helmets are 40% more likely to experience a fatal head injury and 15% more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury in a crash than are motorcyclists with helmets.

  • The Masked Millionaire||

    Sign a waiver that we don't have to pay to repair the tiny brain of yours when you crash and burn. Then you can ride without a helmet all you want and I won't say a thing.

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire
    www.TheMaskedMillionaire.com

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I think Jacob has already UNMASKED the fallacy of the public health argument with respect to helmet laws.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Oooops, wasn't done. Secondarily, if the problem is the socialization of medicine then let's abolish socialized medicine. No tax paid medical bennies means t/p aren't on the hook for scrambled brains.

    On a slightly different note, one girl I dated used to refer to my bike as a murdercycle.

  • LevStrauss||

    Survival of the fittest truly describes my philosophy on motorcycle helmet laws. As someone who had a friend who got into an accident and was never the same after head injuries, unfortunately you just have to let people be idiots if they aren't hurting anyone else. You tell them they don't listen and nobody but themselves get hurt or are to blame. If you are retarded enough to ride a hundred mile an hour heavy bicycle without a helmet go right ahead but you will probably end up literally retarded or dead.

    Regular bicycles are another matter. If I ever have a boy I am forcing him not to wear a bicycle helmet, I'll pay the fines if I have to because I was just old enough to miss those laws and I have always thought they were complete bullshit. If you need a helmet on a bicycle you probably need one to walk as well. It's stuff like this that is sissifying the youth. It all started with Pokemon but that was a foreign assault.

  • ||

    I've cracked 40mph on a bicycle, descending a narrow twisty poorly paved back road in the Appalachians... if you crash at those speeds, a helmet may not save you, but a bare head will do a nice imitation of a watermelon dropped off the top of the Empire State Building.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I have worked in a rehab hospital.

    The most severe head injury case I worked with was a motorcycle accident.

    The guy fell over sideways (gravel I believe was the cause) at a stop sign and hit his head on the curb with the weight of the bike helping to bring his temple to concrete at a nice velocity.

  • Neu Mejican||

    If he had had a helmet on there would have been no injury.

  • ||

    * A properly designed helmet *enhances* visibility by keeping wind and debris out of your eyes (sunglasses are not 100% effective; sealing googles are okay), and *enhances* hearing by cutting out the high-frequency wind noise (I also add earplugs).

    * In a libertopia I would be against helmet laws, However, as long as my tax dollars are paying for emergency room visits and medical disability for road pizza, idiots who would otherwise not wear helmets should be required to. And it's easy to enforce.

  • Edward||

    Who gives a flying fuck? It's dithering about nonsense like this that makes libertarians look like goony cultists.

  • SmokyJoe||

    Neu Mejican,

    And if the dude had known how to ride, there would have been no accident.

  • SmokyJoe||

    As far as increased or decreased visibility and hearing, it seems to me that the speed matters. I've never worn a helmet when riding, but I imagine that if I was doing 70 mph, then a full visor would decrease the wind and potentially increase my ability to see. And any loss to peripheral vision doesn't matter because the peripheral is moving too fast to matter (with respect to the rider). But at anything under 40, it sure feels like a helmet would restrict my ability to sense the environment around me.

    But in the end like TWC said, if your worried about paying someone else health bills, then take care of that issue and fix the health care system so you won't have to. But restricting personal liberties is not the answer.

  • SmokyJoe||

    Hell why not make motorcycles illegal. Even with a helmet on I'm sure they are not as safe as a car.

  • ||

    SmokyJoe,

    * On any reasonable helmet the visor will allow you a complete field of view.

    * As for fixing healthcare, I'm all for it -- let motorcyclists pay more for health insurance, for the extra risk they incur while riding.

    In the meantime, screeching about personal liberties like not having to protect your noggin makes both motorcyclists and libertarians look bad. There are more important issues to be vocal about.

  • ||

    Amazing how many studies there are that dwell on the helmet - an "after the accident has begun" reactive device. Where is it mentioned the one device that, for less than $150, could:

    1) Prevent half of all motorcycle accidents, and consequently...
    2) Saves lives
    3) Eliminates accident-associated health care costs
    4) Doesn't restrict, constrict or encroach on the riders "comfort"

    According to statistics (the HURT study, for example), HALF of all motorcycle accidents are caused by the "other" driver, who didn't SEE the motorcycle.

    For between $80 and $150, a headlight modulator increases the motorcycle's visibility during the day. By Federal Law, modulators on motorcycles are legal in ALL 50 States. By Federal Law, States can NOT supersede Federal Law. Canada has a similar law.

    PREVENTING accidents - now there's a concept we could live with!

    References: Federal Law CFR 49, Part 517, Section 108, S7.9.4 allows modulators. And States CANNOT override Federal Laws: Title 49, United States Code, Chapter 301.

    Live to Ride. Blink to Live!

  • ||

    BlinkEm,

    The operative word is "could." I'd love to see a study on the efficacy of headlight modulators. Certainly a more useful way to drop $80 on your bike than a lot of the farkles people have.

    In the meantime, I'll ride like I'm invisible.

  • Minion of URKOBOLD||

    Edward | April 2, 2008, 2:22am | #
    Who gives a flying fuck? It's dithering about nonsense like this that makes libertarians look like goony cultists.



    and it's your dashing brown eyes that make you look dreamy.

  • ed||

    I wear a helmet when I go bowling. Just in case.
    Also when I shop. Those cashiers are crazy!
    Oh, in the shower too, of course. Most dangerous place in the home.

  • ||

    As a 20 yr. rider, only morons don't wear helmets (or leather for that matter). Yes, I will defend your right to be a moron. Like Hypnos said, ride like you are invisible. I would add maintain awareness of your escape paths.

    Neu Meujican, I prove your assertion. Went to park my bike, foot slipped on some leaked oil, went down and bounced my head off a concrete parking stop. Happened in the blink of an eye. If not for the helmet, it would have been major trauma.

  • ||

    I'll ride like I'm invisible.

    Excellent advice; if there is any situation where paranoia works in your favor, it's when you're on a motorcycle. Once I finish the retro cafe-racer project, I will ride it as if everybody out there is trying to kill me.

    And, no, I won't be wearing a helmet; at least not 'til I get my knee down.

  • New World Dan||

    >Like Hypnos said, ride like you are invisible. I would add maintain awareness of your escape paths.

    Funny. That's how I drive my damn car. By no small coincidence, I've never had an accident, while my wife has had 3 major accidents just in the decade we've been married (along with several more minor fender benders).

    TWC presents some lovely statistics which make a compelling argument for not riding motorcycles. The question to me, is how do we address the root problem: it just isn't safe to ride a motorcycle (or bicycle) on the same road as a car?

  • ||

    I no longer own a motorcycle, but a helmet saved my brain during a simple spill years ago. I love the riders who always say things like, "If I have to crash, I'll lay the bike down like this and ... yada yada yada" As if they think there'll be any time to react. The most amazing thing I recall about my spill was how suddenly it happened. I was going (too fast, probably) through a turn that had a slight rise at a railroad crossing. As soon as I went over the crossing, I remember briefly wondering why the horizon was vertical and, BAM! ... lotsa stars. It happened so fast I had no internal sense at all that I was going down. A huge chunk of laminate blasted off my helmet at the point of impact -- I can only imagine how well my unprotected cranium would have fared. Not well, I think. All I suffered was some road rash on my ankle (Docksiders sans socks) in the ensuing slide and the bike suffered two broken turn signals.

    Regarding the helmets-with-bicycles issue, the fact that you don't go as fast horizontally is a red herring. It's the velocity your head achieves falling the vertical distance to the ground that matters. As one other poster pointed out, you don't have to be moving forward at all to sustain a brain injury from a spill.

    Regarding the "murdercycle" nickname, when I worked as a Medic back in the 80s, we called them donorcycles, 'cause they often produced brain-dead specimens with few other internal injuries. This is why more people should ride without helmets. But I know I never would -- must be a Darwinian thing.

  • ||

    Motorcycles *are* more dangerous than cars. They are also a hell of a lot more fun.

    Riding without gear, and definitely riding without a helmet, gives opponents/nannies (many of them doctors) ammunition for banning or restricting motorcycling, arguing that it is a public health hazard that clogs emergency rooms.

    When done responsibly, such as with the right training and wearing the right gear, people are forced to acknowledge it as the sport/art that it is. Cf. the NRA for Public Relations 101.

    Moreover, as long as the public abhors people with splattered brains dying in the street, doctors have a duty to provide care, and motorcyclists share the road with everyone else, incentives can never be totally internalized to the rider.

  • T||

    It's been a number of year since I looked at the stats, but it used to be that most motorcycle fatalities were single vehicle accidents involving alcohol, i.e. rider drinks one too many and lays it down and dies. If that's still the case, helmet laws aren't gonna help much. You can't fix stupid via legislation.

  • Neu Mejican||

    SmokyJoe,

    And if the dude had known how to ride, there would have been no accident.

    You need to look up the term "accident."

  • ||

    If you think you can't suffer some serious injuries on a bicycle, try doing a header over the handlebars at 32.1 mph. I know that's how fast I was going because my speedometer froze at that speed. Massive concussion and bleeding on the brain. I always say that the amount of time it takes for your heart to beat once your whole world could change.

    Needless to say, I never ride without a helmet now.

    I'm not saying you should wear a helmet, just like I don't care about the people that cross in front of the train every morning.

    I think it's one of those things that you never think could happen to you, until it does.

  • ||

    Good helmets save lives. Anyone who has seen a few motorcycle accidents can attest to that. I would never ride without my brain bucket. Contrary to popular opinion, a helmet doesn't cut off peripheral vision nor your hearing (in fact, if you wear earplugs, the helmet IMPROVES hearing of things like horns, sirens, etc by reducing road and engine noise).

    Helmet laws DO NOT save lives.

    Education does. When someone knows why they want a helmet, they buy a GOOD helmet. When you force them, they buy the cheapest one that will get them legal.

    If you have something worth protecting, you protect it. People lock suitcases full of dirty underwear, so why not give at least that much care for the case you use to carry your brain (straight-ticket voters, it may be too late for you)?

    Bottom line: Helmets, HECK YES, helmet laws, HELL NO!!!

  • ||

    Take a gander at this. The statements say how bad no helmets are but the numbers show that the weight of the helmets can and do cause major neck and thorax damage but of course that is not mentioned. After going over this several times it looks like helmets may be a big danger!
    http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/DOT/NHTSA/NCSA/Content/RNotes/2007/810856.pdf

  • ||

    The Wine Commonsewer wrote:

    "Helmets suck because they limit one's ability to hear and see

    "I can see that with full face helmets, which I never wore. "

    Nope. Go put one on. I wear a "modular" ("flip-up") helmet, and I wish I had been able to buy one of these 30 years ago. It's far more comfortable on a long ride than the 3/4 helmet that I used to wear. The old one acted like the cup in a wind-speed meter, catching the wind when I would ride. A full-face or a flip-up is aerodynamic, so it's quieter and is a lot less affected by wind (thus no sore neck after 250 miles on a breezy day).

  • ||

    Mack wrote: "The statements say how bad no helmets are but the numbers show that the weight of the helmets can and do cause major neck and thorax damage"

    In over 30 years of riding, I've never had an injury caused by the weight of my helmet.

    I've had to repaint or replace several helmets over the years because they were damaged by flying gravel and other hazards. More than once my head has been snapped back when a large flying bug hit the helmet at 70 MPH. Then there was that hailstorm in Nevada, 20 miles from the nearest place to get under any kind of shelter, overpass, etc.

    Looking at a record like this, it seems to me that the Ayes have it, and I'll keep wearing a helmet.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Helmets suck because they limit one's ability to hear and see. And yes, miles traveled would have been a useful, as would rural v. urban.


    Why do F-22 Raptor pilots wear helmets?

    Would not pilots need to see and hear even more so than motorcycle drivers?

  • ||

    About half of all Americans live in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. ...

    I dunno about the other states, but Illinois doesn't have a helmet law. They require protective eye-wear only, not helmets. For now...

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    if you crash at those speeds, a helmet may not save you

    That's cuz you bicycle guys wear those STOOPID looking hats. :-) Jesus Chrysler, who designed those things. They almost look vaguely obscene.

    Now, if you had real helmets and you crashed at 40 mph, you've got a fighting chance.

    Personally, I think if a car upends your bicycle at 20 and you land on your noggin, even with a bicycle hat on, you better have your organ donor card handy.

    I could be wrong, though, but man, those things look like they only work for the very mildest of crashes, like skidding on gravel at 5mph.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TWC,

    A good bicycle helmet will protect your head in most accidents that you could have on a bicycle (even at fairly high speeds).

    They are, unlike motorcycle helmets, only good for a single impact, however.

    If you have crashed and hit your helmet...replace it even it it looks undamaged.

  • ||

    I use a full-face helmet (this one, in fact), and I experience no limitation on vision. If I point my eyes downward, I can see the chinbar, but it doesn't obstruct my view of the road any more than my nose does. The eyeport is wide enough that I can use my full peripheral vision, and if the sun's low, I can dip my head enough to use the top edge of the helmet as a visor. Besides, I tend to turn my head to look at things, rather than just sliding my eyeballs.

    Also, Mack:

    Your study does not appear to show what you claim it does. Care to elaborate?

  • ||

    Neu Mejican:

    Motorcycle helmets should also be replaced after a single impact -- they're also designed for a single crash.

    (In fact, they're saying that even if your helmet merely falls off the end of your handlebar to the ground, send it back to the manufacturer for inspection before you wear it again.)

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    J Golden, interesting about the full helmets. I don't ride anymore, but if I did I'd look into it.

    Had a guy that owed me some cash give me a 750 Suzuki ten years ago or so. I rode around on that thing for a couple of weeks and sold it.

    Scared the crap out of me. Every time I sat at a red light I was freaked out that the car coming up behind me was going to rear end me and make me a bed-ridden old coot. California today is not the California where I used to ride.

    I loved it too, wouldn't trade it, but I won't ride again. Maybe.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Mack,

    Those charts don't show a very big difference in the number of neck injuries and they don't account for severity of the crash.

    If you died and were wearing a helmet and had two injuries, one being a broken neck and the other a head injury, you were probably going much faster than the rider without a helmet.

  • jimmydageek||

    Actually, TWC, bicycle helmets can be quite sturdy. As with most products, however, you get what you pay for. A well designed helmet will ventilate your head more so than riding without one and can even keep your head from being crushed by a large truck.

    In my experience, a helmet prevented major injury when I went down some stairs at the wrong angle. I fell and slid about 3 feet past the stairs. I saw the pavement sliding right in front of my nose in slow motion until I came to a stop. Pictures of the aftermath here. I'd rather wear a "stoopid looking" hat than take on the turf without one :)

  • Neu Mejican||

    Jake Boone,

    Of course.
    And for the same reasons I am sure.

    Thanks.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    The guy fell over sideways (gravel I believe was the cause) at a stop sign and hit his head on the curb with the weight of the bike helping to bring his temple to concrete at a nice velocity.

    NM, doesn't that just suck? This guy who lived next door to my buddy El Geronimo de Crow always wore a helmet. Always. Except that one day when he had just tuned up the bike and he took it for a spin to the end of the block. As he turned up into his driveway, the front tire hit that little 1.5 inch curb at the gutter line, which had a trickle of water in it, and the bike skidded out from under him. Killed him instantly when his head hit the curb.

    What are the odds?

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    NM in my day (before helmet laws), that broken neck argument was a biggie. One helmet I had was curved at the base of the neck, designed to prevent broken necks.

    Jimmy, I am a sick man, but I LOL when the guy was asked what it felt like to have a truck run over his head. Uh, really strange. (sorry, I guess you had to be there).

    Icky pix, dude, you gotta be careful on the stairs.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Terry Smith's dad rode one of those old BMW's with a fairing and he was crazed. We were punks and even we thought he was out of his mind. He rode like a maniac. One day he's splitting traffic on the freeway (at freeway speeds) and he gets sucked sideways by the vacuum under a tractor trailer rig. He jams his foot down, pops the bike upright and continues on his way. By the time he gets home his knee is hurting and his ankle aches, but get this....

    On the inside of the white fairing is a tire mark that looks like somebody burned rubber up the windshield. That's how close he came to getting munched by the trailer tires.

    Didn't even faze him. He thought it was great. But then one day a few years later he was nearly killed in a bike accident and that was it, he hung up the helmets for good.

  • ||

    A few things:
    My state does not mandate wearing helmets (only having one visible on the bike), yet I will wear mine most of the time (commuting, cold/wet weather). I appreciate that I am treated as an adult.

    I happen to have an extremely large head, for which there are very few manufacturers that build appropriate helmets for. AFAIK there is only the Vega Altura that can be found in 5XL. I've tried the slightly-more-commonly available 3XL and it leaves dents in my head. There are no Snell certified helmets available at sizes larger than 2XL.

    Also, Snell certification may very well permit _more_ traumatic force than DOT certification. http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/gearbox/motorcycle_helmet_review/index.html

    I've also avoided at least one accident (truck blowing a red light) because the peripheral vision I had without my full-face helmet at the time gave me enough notice to accelerate away from it. OTOH I've dropped my bike on black ice and cracked a previous helmet, and I'm glad that it was the fiberglass and not the bone that took the blow.

  • ||

    Oh yeah, I am _definitely_ one of 'those' crazy BMW people.. The upright riding position basically makes you as impatient and aggressive as your standard SUVtard, but you have instant passing acceleration and can fit in the smallest holes in traffic...

  • ||

    Seems to me like these US studies are confounded by weak helmet standards...in California I see guys riding with those silly little skull caps, which apparently meet the legal standard, but I doubt if they do you any good in accident.

    Never touched a bike myself, but my wife survived a major bike crash thanks to a full-face helmet.

  • ||

    I just hope that we have to start wearing them in cars also.
    Of course you will need a HANS (Head And Neck Support) device. This will save lives NASCAR and the death of Dale will tell you this.

    Another alternative is to allow a personal choice, but that is not what we want really is it? We want the nanny state to tell us what is good for us, what is bad, when to sleep, when to laugh, when to crap, we do not need any freedoms.

  • ||

    Sign a waiver that we don't have to pay to repair the tiny brain of yours when you crash and burn. Then you can ride without a helmet all you want and I won't say a thing.



    Sign the same waiver next time you go skiing or rock climbing or play football and you've got yourself a deal.

  • ||

    There is an understandable emphasis on the really big accidents that are going to result in death, paralysis or severe brain damage, but in a lesser accident a full face helmet could prevent serious facial injuries.

  • ||

    Dr. Noisewater,

    * A properly fitting helmet should never obscure your peripheral vision -- the visor should wrap around your entire field of view. I guess the problem in your case is your hat size.

    If you know a brand fits you, try ordering online ...

    * BSI (British Safety Institute) and ECE (Economic Commission of Europe) standards are probably superior to DOT and Snell. DOT doesn't certify facial impact (which is why those ridiculous beanies can pass), and Snell overemphasizes puncture failures to the detriment of energy absorption.

  • ||

    To wear or not to wear a motorcycle helmet is an "individual's choice". We live in America...land of the "free". Americans please wake up and STOP allowing our legislators to write and pass legislation requiring "mandatory laws"!!!

    Big insurance companies are driving this issue. Hospitals "claim" that motorcycle riders cause the most medical non payments because we do not wear our helmets. Do we continue to allow insurance companies to dictate what we can and cannot do?

    Please meet your legislators, ask them if they are in favor or more mandatory, restricting laws. If they are, be sure to vote against them.

  • ||

    I am a USA citizen and the last time I checked, this was a free country, although I"m beginning to wonder.If you want to be dictated to and driven like a herd of sheep, go to Russia. I am a well educated, responsible person, very capable of making decisions regarding my health and safety. I feel it is my personal right as an american to make the decision to wear or not wear a helmet. One of the most desired feelings we, as americans have, is the freedom to jump on our bike and ride with the wind in our hair and the sun on our face. WHY would anyone want to give that up. It is MY choice to make that decision, and I choose the wind.

  • ||

    As a nurse with hundreds of hours spent in the hospital E.R. and also a Hospice nurse, I"ve seen alot. I am also a hard core biker. I make the choice not to wear a helmet. I feel it is my personal right as a U.S. citizen to make that choice. It is MY body. MY right as an american. I believe when it is time for me to leave this earth, I will leave. A helmet is not going to change that. In the meantime, I choose to ride free, with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. If God calls me home when I"m on the bike, I will go happy and doing what I love. Riding free.

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  • Motorcycleman||

    Haha sounds like that really sucked. I wear a helmet at all times!

  • StormRider||

    Really... this is such an old argument. I would have thought that people had grown-up by now. Put a bucket on your head (either a proper helmet, or *really*.. a bucket). That way your friends can either pick you up in one piece or at least you can be kind enough to keep the mess to a minimum.

    Ride SAFE.. be SMART

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