FairWarining Investigates

Despite Death Toll, Motorcycle Groups Strive to Muzzle U.S. Regulators

Anti-helmet law demonstrators in recent rally at state capitol in Albany, N.Y. (Skip Dickstein / Albany Times Union)

WASHINGTON – In a highly touted safety achievement, deaths on the nation’s roads and highways have fallen sharply in recent years, to the lowest total in more than a half-century. But motorcyclists have missed out on that dramatic improvement, and the news for them has been increasingly grim.

So it might be no surprise that biker groups are upset with Washington. The twist is what they are asking lawmakers and regulators to do: Back away from promoting or enforcing requirements for safe helmets, the most effective way known to save bikers’ lives.

Fatalities from motorcycle crashes have more than doubled since the mid-1990s. The latest figures show these accidents taking about 4,500 lives a year, or one in seven U.S. traffic deaths.

Yet if the biker groups’ lobbyists and congressional allies have their way, the nation’s chief traffic cop — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA — will be thwarted in its efforts to reduce the body count. The agency would be blocked from providing any more grants to states to conduct highway stops of motorcyclists to check for safety violations such as wearing helmets that don’t meet federal standards.

Beyond that, the rider groups are seeking to preserve what essentially is a gag rule that since 1998 has prevented NHTSA from advocating safety measures at the state and local levels, including promoting life-saving helmet laws. And the bikers’ lobbyists, backed by grassroots activists and an organization whose members include a “Who’s Who” of motorcycle manufacturers, already have derailed a measure lawmakers envisioned to reinstate financial penalties for states lacking helmet laws.

Those moves partly are intended to maintain the bikers’ clout in state legislatures, which have kept rolling back motorcycle helmet regulations for three decades. With Michigan’s repeal in April of its nearly 50-year-old helmet requirement covering all riders, only 19 states have such helmet laws, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the late 1970s, by contrast, 47 states had requirements covering all riders.

“This is…an interesting and dangerous road they are going down,” said Jackie Gillan, president of the Washington-based nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “They are so emboldened now, not only do they try to repeal laws and stop them from being enacted, they try to stop the hands of law enforcement, saying you cannot use grant money to have motorcycle checkpoints. Can you imagine if they said the same thing about sobriety checkpoints?”

Biker groups, contending that helmet laws curtail personal freedom, say the federal government instead should emphasize rider training to prevent crashes from happening in the first place. They urge NHTSA, which has spent upwards of $30 million on training through an industry-endorsed grant program that Congress established in 2005, to step up that effort.

But it is far from clear that training does anything to reduce crashes or deaths. A 2007 Indiana study, for instance, found that riders who completed a basic training course were 44 percent more likely to be involved in an accident than untrained riders. Researchers speculated that the courses gave riders unwarranted confidence, and that they ended up taking more risks.

Emily Chow for FairWarning

Mandatory helmet laws are widely considered the closest thing to a silver bullet that regulators have to thwart deadly accidents. NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,483 lives in 2009, and that another 732 deaths could have been avoided if all riders had worn them. The social costs of the carnage are also huge: a 2008 agency estimate concluded that $1.3 billion in medical bills and lost productivity would have been saved if all bikers had worn helmets.

The paradox between what biker groups are lobbying for versus what most safety experts say really works riles regulators and other public health advocates.

“You cannot be in this battle and not be frustrated by this senselessness,” said Michael Dabbs, president of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.

He added that the personal freedom that riders seek would have socially unacceptable consequences if carried to its logical extreme. “Maybe we ought to save some of the costs when police or emergency responders go to the scene of a crash and the person is not wearing a helmet,” Dabbs said. “Perhaps they ought to be left there like roadkill.”

The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent investigative and advisory agency, includes motorcycle helmets among its “most wanted” transportation safety improvements and has urged states to make them mandatory. Likewise, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland has said of helmets: “No other single countermeasure offers a comparable body of supporting scientific evidence confirming its potential for saving lives of motorcyclists.”

Libertarian Message

That motorcyclists have evaded the kind of regulation that has made seat belts and car seats standard equipment in other motor vehicles shows the influence of a vocal minority of riders whose libertarian message seems to resonate more than ever with lawmakers inside and outside the Beltway. And their efforts receive support from the leading motorcycle manufacturers. Manufacturers generally endorse the use of helmets but, loath to offend their customers, they also are an important dues-paying membership bloc in the American Motorcyclist Association, an ardent opponent of helmet laws.

For example, Harley-Davidson Inc. said through a spokeswoman that it “supports and encourages safety for all motorcycle riders, but believes in the personal freedom of people making the choices that are right for them regarding helmet use.”

The rider lobby’s powerful friends include U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., whose state is home to Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson. He has led efforts in the House to block NHTSA from promoting state and local safety measures and using federal funds for motorcycle checkpoints.

“Maybe we ought to save some of the costs when police or emergency responders go to the scene of a crash and the person is not wearing a helmet. Perhaps they ought to be left there like roadkill.”

    – Michael Dabbs, president of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, attacking the logic of helmet law critics

The repeal of Michigan’s long-standing helmet law had been opposed by a coalition of more than two dozen medical and public health groups led by the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. Public opinion, too, weighed against the move — a poll indicated that 80 percent wanted to keep the helmet law. State safety officials predicted the repeal would lead to at least 30 more deaths a year.

Motorcycle activists, led by the local chapter of a group calling itself American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE, framed the issue as a matter of personal liberty. They also argued that the repeal would draw more riders to the state and increase tourism.

In Michigan, riders 20 and younger still must wear helmets, and the new law requires motorcyclists to have at least $20,000 in medical insurance. But those who advocated keeping the helmet requirement for all riders said the $20,000 in insurance would not come close to covering the cost of a catastrophic injury.

Compelling Evidence

Nationally, the evidence that helmets prevent head injuries and deaths has long been compelling. Two decades ago, a Government Accountability Office analysis identified 46 academic studies that showed helmets saving lives and reducing the social burden of caring for injured riders.

Even the American Motorcyclist Association readily acknowledges that helmets that meet Transportation Department standards can prevent serious injury or even death in the event of a crash, and encourages their use, although the group still says riders should have the option of not wearing one.

Recent studies also have rebutted a long-standing assertion by rider groups that helmets can increase the chances of cervical spine injuries because of the greater torque they place on the neck. Johns Hopkins University researchers, in a study published last year that reviewed 40,000 motorcycle collisions, found the opposite to be true: the helmeted riders were 22 percent less likely to suffer cervical spine injury than those without helmets.

“We are debunking a popular myth,” said Adil H. Haider, the leader of the study and an assistant professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins.

Motorcycle groups have also become better organized and funded, roaring to life with Washington lobbyists and thousands of grassroots volunteers to fight helmet requirements on the federal and state levels.

The American Motorcyclist Association – whose corporate members include Harley-Davidson and North American divisions of Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki – has spent $3.8 million lobbying Congress on helmet laws and other issues over the last decade, while doling out more than $200,000 in campaign contributions to members, according to OpenSecrets.org, a database run by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation spent $2.1 million in lobbying during the same period.

Emily Chow for FairWarning

That is the force that Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., a long-time supporter of mandatory helmet laws, ran into last December. He was poised to introduce a proposal to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that would have forced states to pass helmet laws or else lose millions in federal highway funds. It would have reinstated a similar requirement that, after a lobbying campaign by motorcyclist groups, was repealed in 1995.

In a preemptive strike, the rider groups alerted their members and encouraged them to connect with their lawmakers on the issue. They had defeated a similar helmet proposal two-to-one in 2005. Lautenberg ditched his pro-helmet idea without even offering it up for formal consideration. A Lautenberg spokesman said that the senator “remains committed to strengthening helmet laws and is pursuing several strategies to increase helmet use across the country.”

Death Toll Climbing

As more riders have gotten on the road and the number of states with mandatory helmet laws has declined, biker deaths have soared.

The death toll climbed from 2,116 in 1997 to 4,502 in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available. Motorcycle-related fatalities accounted for 14 percent of the 32,885 deaths overall from motor vehicle crashes in 2010, which officially is the lowest total since 1949.

The victims last year included 17- year-old Caroline Found of Iowa City, Iowa, who died after she lost control of her moped and struck a tree. They also included Philip Contos, 55, who was killed while participating in a rally to protest New York’s mandatory helmet law. Police say Contos, who resided near Syracuse, N.Y., would have survived had he been obeying the law.

The irony of Contos’s death attracted widespread media attention, although friends say he would have been repulsed by the idea that he had become a poster boy for helmet laws.

Four teenage friends of Found, motivated by her death, launched a campaign to persuade the Iowa legislature to enact a helmet law. (Along with Illinois and New Hampshire, Iowa allows riders of all ages to go helmet-less.) Their bid fell short. “It is getting to the point where we’re going to have to bubble wrap everyone just to protect them from everything,” a state legislator told the young activists, explaining his opposition to a ban. “I think there’s got to be some common sense here.”

Helmet advocates say it is the public that ends up getting ripped off when it has to pick up the tab for health costs associated with catastrophic accidents.

“If you don’t wear a helmet, and you sustain a moderate to severe injury that doesn’t kill you, you are going to be a drain on society for the rest of your life,” said Thomas J. Esposito, chief of the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago.

NHTSA once tried to take a lead role in providing information to states considering helmet laws. It set aside $330,000 in 1995 and 1996 for the cause, including a $149,000 contract for a video and white paper for state legislators.

The video – titled “Without Motorcycle Helmets, We All Pay the Price” – featured testimonials from helmet-wearing crash survivors and a trauma-room physician who compared helmets to “a vaccine” because of the compelling evidence they reduced brain injuries.

Controversy revved up when the Motorcycle Riders Foundation obtained an early copy of the pro-helmet video and began distributing it to friends in Congress. Rider groups portrayed the situation as an example of NHTSA using federal tax money to lobby against the interests of taxpaying bikers.

Helmet law protest. (Skip Dickstein / Albany Times Union)

They found a champion in Sensenbrenner, and in 1998 Congress enacted a sweeping measure that barred NHTSA from attempting to influence state and local legislators on any pending legislation. NHTSA representatives could appear as witnesses, but only in response to an official invitation.

With NHTSA more recently signaling stepped-up interest in promoting helmet use, Sensenbrenner has emerged as a lead opponent again, sponsoring a resolution, now in the hands of a House subcommittee, that would reaffirm the agency’s lobbying ban.

Novelty Helmets

NHTSA is facing opposition to motorcycle checkpoints, too. The agency in 2010 earmarked $350,000 to help state police set up stops to check motorcyclists for safety violations. One intent is to crack down on so-called novelty helmets, which do not meet federal standards but account for an estimated one in five of the helmets riders wear. The helmets have become popular because they are lightweight and come in various styles — and because they can keep police away in states that mandate helmet use.

But they are also dangerous. “They are just plastic toys, essentially,” says Tim McMahon, a San Jose, Calif., personal-injury lawyer, who won a $1.7 million injury award for a Fresno man who suffered brain damage from a 2005 crash while wearing a novelty helmet that he thought was safe.

Despite the risks, motorcyclists have gone to court to block regulation. In a test case, four bikers who were ticketed in 2008 at a checkpoint in New York for lacking approved helmets filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that inspections singling out motorcyclists were illegal discrimination. A judge dismissed the suit last year.

The American Motorcyclist Association, taking another tack, fired off a letter in late 2010 urging NHTSA administrator Strickland to suspend the federal checkpoint grant program, saying there were unanswered questions about the program’s implementation, legality and efficacy. Strickland declined.

Biker groups were further incensed when the agency subsequently made a grant to the state of Georgia, which used the money in March, 2011 to monitor bikers headed south to the legendary Daytona Beach Bike Week.

Motorcycle activists again found a sympathetic ear in Sensenbrenner, who introduced legislation to end federal funding of motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints. The anti-checkpoint measure may be considered by a House-Senate conference committee currently working on a long-term surface transportation bill.

“These checkpoints are not an effective use of taxpayer money,” Sensenbrenner said, in a prepared statement in response to questions. “Motorcycle-only checkpoints force law enforcement officials to play ‘nanny state’ to all riders rather than focusing on those who are endangering themselves and others on the road, and do not address the factors that contribute to motorcycle crashes.”

Biker groups raise similar points.

“The federal government says all day long: ‘You guys are a huge problem. You are killing yourselves out there. You need to start wearing helmets.’ But then they do not want to put resources” toward training and accident prevention, said Jeff Hennie, a Washington-based lobbyist for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.

American Motorcyclist Association spokesman Pete terHorst added that helmet mandates create “unintended consequences,” drawing scarce resources away from alternatives like training.

But the advantages of training are questionable. A 2009 study for the federal Transportation Research Board found that the evidence was inconclusive about whether educating riders through formal programs made them any safer.

Other studies have shown that, while training helps riders pass basic skills tests, their chances of getting in a crash after six months of driving are about the same as untrained riders. That raised questions even for Tim Buche, president of the industry-sponsored Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which has developed the training materials most widely used in the U.S. “Maybe the training does not change someone’s true behavior for the long term,” he speculated.

Even if training pays off, public health advocates argue that relying on it exclusively would be equivalent to, in the automotive world, exempting people who take a driver’s education course from requirements to use seat belts or to put children in car seats.

Doctors such as Esposito who provide care for the people hurt in those crashes, though, sometimes are mystified about why riders don’t take it upon themselves to wear safe helmets for their own protection.

Asked whether he often thinks about how a patient with a head injury could have avoided his plight simply by wearing a helmet, Esposito replied: “All the time.”

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205 comments to “Despite Death Toll, Motorcycle Groups Strive to Muzzle U.S. Regulators”

  1. Paul Truax

    Helmet manufacturers provide a product for about 95% of motorcycle riders.
    I am part of the few who cannot buy a properly fitting DOT approved full face helmet.
    In fourteen years of riding, I have not died (yet).
    Why do all these people want to deny me the opportunity to ride?

  2. Mike Campbell

    Every person in these United States as far as I’m concerned has their right to their own thoughts and opinion, BUT the absolute stupidest part of this story is the fact of supporting discrimination and profiling by the author. If roadblocks for ALL vehicles were mentioned or supported then I could at least live with that rule or law and again as long as you stopped ALL vehicles. I am very happy to live in a state that its constitution bans discriminatory behavior.

  3. splatt rattzenberger

    Uh…do helmets prevent accidents? Tell that to Dale Earnhardt. Tell that to the NFL. Maybe if the NFL went back to leather helmets, they’d THINK before they bopped heads like rams in heat. Prevent the accident in the first place – and you won’t need a helmet in the second place….because once you’ve gone down, you’ve already screwed the pooch.
    Remember….it’s NOT about the helmet…it’s about the CHOICE. How’s about we all pool our money and buy these Socialist Safetycrats® a first class bus ticket to Cuba. Yeah…I said bus…..

  4. red barron

    helmet laws still suck. if you wanna wear a helmet go ahead, but helmets do NOT prevent accidents and in some accidents the helmet will increase the severity of your injuries. a 3lb helmet, at 60mph, becomes a 180lb object that is on your head. the neck is the weakest link on the body, so helmets can and do cause paralysis. how would you like it if a law were passed that you could NOT ever wear a helmet? think about it. it is not the government’s job to force “safety” on anyone!

  5. Fred

    “Let Freedom Ring! I’ll make my choice on the helmet cause I’m free and I’m a Patriot.”

    Wonderful words Russ, please feel free to wrap yourself in the flag and ring all the bells you like. But if you think the flag will serve as protection for your head, you have been misinformed.

    But you didn’t actually respond to the point; which was: Will you freely accept (as a “Patriot” should) full responsibility for the consequences to yourself that arise from refusing to wear a helmet in the name of your freedom? That means all medical costs, including those not covered by your insurance, and not expect or accept treatment at cost to others.

    Will you sign a legal agreement to that effect? And will you require any person who rides as a passenger to make the same agreement?

    If you are not willing to do that, then you must want to limit the freedom of others who are forced to pay taxes and higher insurance premiums to cover people (like you) who want to be free but want others to pay for their freedom.

  6. Cletis


    To your first point, that the cited study’s death-to-accident ratio “smells of cherry-picking”: I’ll agree that if the California data spanned a few more years and still maintained the same trend indicated, it would be more compelling, but other than that, I think that the numbers are responsibly cited. What relevant variables do you think might be missing — intentionally or otherwise — from that study?

    But yes, arguments advocating mandatory helmet laws routinely use the same faulty correlations as are cited in the article on this page. They also misuse statistics in other, smaller ways as well; such as when they cite only motorcycle fatalities determined to have been caused by head injury, while rejecting all other modes of fatality — including neck injuries, which of course go up substantially with helmet use, due to the increased momentum experienced by the rider’s head, which translates into significant trauma when the body and head decelerate at different rates. But the offense committed by this article — the failure to normalize fatalities against the number of riders, and simply reporting them without any context, is much more egregious, as well as much more common.

    Just to add to the previous point about head injury versus neck injury: The well-respected and much-referenced Hurt Report (http://www.clarity.net/~adam/hurt-report.html) shows that the average speed of a collision-involved motorcycle at the time of impact is about 20 mph. (Specifically, 21.5 mph.) This broaches questions like, “At what speeds do helmets statistically tend to reduce injury, and at what speeds do they tend to increase injury?” and “At what speeds do helmets statistically tend to reduce fatalities, and at what speeds do they tend to increase fatalities?” I would dare to suggest two things:
    1. Fatal head injuries — or even non-fatal, brain-damage-inducing head injuries — are not particularly likely at 21.5 mph.
    2. The added momentum of a safety helmet, combined with the fact that helmet are only designed to meet the DOT specification of surviving a 14 mph impact, becomes a very real factor in the increased likelihood of serious neck injury at 20 mph.

    Perhaps the above analysis shows that some of the numbers in the reference cited by Warren, which show helmet use actually correlating with an *increased* incidence of fatalities, are not necessarily outliers to be discarded.

    Regarding your second point: “Is it possible that advocates are tolerating weak reasoning because the effect of getting fewer cycle riders is so effective at reducing harm?” You are very close here, except that a reduction in harm is perhaps not the overriding concern, but instead a reduction in insurance payouts. Consider the following points:
    1. Among the most vocal advocates of mandatory helmet laws, if not *the* most vocal, are vehicle insurance companies. (Obviously, this includes studies of helmet efficacy commissioned and funded by insurance companies.)
    2. Perhaps obviously, a claim involving a motorcycle — whether a single-vehicle or a multiple-vehicle collision — is likely to involve a much higher payout than any claim that does not involve a motorcycle.

    An insurer, then, has a vested interest in discouraging motorcycle riding, in order to keep claims down. Since helmet laws are shown (as in Warren’s cited reference) to be effective at reducing ridership, it is in the insurer’s interest to promote them.

    Further, consider the following:
    3. Motorcycles make up 1% or less of the total number of vehicles on the road.
    4. Vehicle insurers who insure motorcycles also insure passenger vehicles, recreational vehicles, commercial vehicles, etc.
    5. According to the Hurt Report, approximately 75% of motorcycle collisions involve a second vehicle.
    6. Also according to the Hurt Report, in about 70% of those two-vehicle collisions, the operator of the other vehicle is at fault.

    From the above points, we can conclude the following: Since 99% of the vehicles on the road are not motorcycles, this means that as an insurer, if one of your insureds is involved in a common two-vehicle motorcycle collision, there is a 99% chance that your insured is the driver of the other vehicle, and not the motorcycle. Therefore, since 70% of these collisions are the other driver’s fault, you are 99% of 70% likely to have to pay out in any such collision. Since motorcycle claims, whether or not a fatality is involved, are likely to be much higher than claims for other vehicles, due to much greater personal injury, we once again see a large incentive for insurers to discourage riding.

  7. Roadkill

    +This is nothing more than a rant touting motorcycle checkpoint laws. To paraphrase, training does nothing to help and actually INCREASES the danger, but helmets cure the disease…

    I’ll remind you that seatbelts secure the operator in a control position and safeguard non-operator passengers, and child safety seats secure underage passengers, so comparison is moot.

    At the point where a helmet benefits the motorcyclist, an action causing its benefit has already occurred, usually an incursion by another vehicle.

    Properly train the non-motorcycle vehicle operator on the awareness of the moto population, and the moto operator to better anticipate the actions of a non-moto public. That can’t be bad. Adequately apply incursion penalties (violations of Right of Way) to deter indifference.

    Helmets are a bandaid on a societal lack of moto awareness…

    Ride on.

  8. gowhitten

    It is great to know there are so many potential organ donators out there. Hopefully when I need an organ transplant, I will be in a state without helmut laws.

  9. Russ Peterson

    Excellent point Bruce,
    On my drivers license I made a choice to be a organ donor, you know what? That was my choice, soon you won’t have a choice on anything, someone will tell you where you can live how many children you can have, how many miles you can drive your vehicle. My point here is all you people think your money is being spent paying for other peoples choices your sadly very misinformed. Don’t go whining around when something you like to do is taken away, if your thinking laws are written to protect the people wrong again too. It’s just a few that have a hard on and have nothing better to do.

  10. Kat Grover

    I live in Arizona, a freedom of choice state. I moved here from California, where my choice was taken away long before I started riding so I started with a helmet (because I had to). Daily, I miss being taken out by cagers, trucks, debris on the road, etc because I am a trained defensive rider always looking for the object/person that will strike me, pull out in front of me, run a red light, or try to run me over because they are inattentive doing 3-5 other things as they drive. Supporting the Motorcycle Riders Foundation/ American Motorcycle Association/Abate/Modified Motorcycle Association and all the other Motorcycle Rights Organizations lets look at our own overview of what and how we believe is true.
    Analysis: A number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies have been uncovered in examining data related to motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities. If the information is incorrect it can only lead to theories and conclusions that are also incorrect or, at the very least, suspect.
    Solution: Since much of the data is obviously flawed and most of the conclusions are therefore speculative at best, the only true solutions to motorcycle safety are proactive measures which prevent a collision from occurring at all rather than reactive steps that may offer some level of injury mitigation only after a crash has already taken place. Rider education that prepares the motorcyclist to interact with other roadway users by learning and practicing the skills necessary for hazard avoidance and developing a strategy to deal with real world traffic is the primary component of a comprehensive
    motorcycle safety plan. Additionally, educating all motor vehicle operators to be alert and free of impairment as they share the road with others is critical in deterring crashes caused by inattention.
    FACT: The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated over 120,000 airplane incidents, over 60,000 surface transportation incidents, and just 6 individual motorcycle incidents in their entire 44 year history — Apparently enough investigation to warrant adding mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists on their “top ten most wanted list”.
    FACT: According to preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association, states that have a mandatory adult helmet law had six fewer fatalities in 2010 than in 2009, while free choice states saw a reduction of 74. The state with the single largest decline in fatalities (Texas -60) is a choice state and a state which requires helmets on all riders tied for the greatest increase (New York +24).
    Possible Errors? When errors, omissions or inaccuracies are discovered in reports or statistics, it calls into question the integrity of results. Additionally, small numbers can be easily skewed by slight or seemingly insignificant variations. Furthermore, numbers may be exploited if uncharacteristic highs or lows are used as a baseline. None of these discoveries are intended to argue against helmet use, but rather to demonstrate that suggesting a helmet law is not the solution to motorcycle safety. Individual states need to maintain the ability to determine what measures best address the needs and desires of their residents as suggested in the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS).
    Warren Woodward states: If helmets have significant safety benefits, then the ratio of deaths to accidents should decline as the use of helmets increases, such as after a mandatory helmet law is enacted. Yet in most states the Death to Accident Ratio (DAR) averages between 2% to 3% both before and after helmet laws have been enacted. To summarize, helmet laws succeed in preventing deaths only by decreasing riders. Helmet laws may decrease head injuries in some instances but increase neck injuries in others. Riders know the risks inherent in riding and must be free to choose whether or not to wear a helmet.

  11. Bruce

    Those that think society needs to be protected from my choices would not bother me as much if you were not such hypocrites. If your objective is to save us all from the massive medical costs you all would be more convincing if you were begging for mandatory helmet laws for cars. Head injuries from motorcycle accidents account for about one tenth of one percent of those from accidents in other vehicles. So by my calculations that 1.3 million in savings would be 100 times more if they were mandatory in all vehicles. So either be consistent or get out of my life. One last question. How come my wife has the right to do anything she wants with her body until she throws her leg over our bike and all of the sudden it becomes your right to tell her how to dress?

  12. Russ Peterson

    Ya, Fred I’m good with that my own insurance pays, that what it’s designed for. Next time you hop in your car and fall asleep behind the wheel or you get flat loose, control, cross the center line and kill somebody I hope your insurance is good enough and the other vehicle has insurance. MY INSURANCE COVERS MY OWN @SS like it should. I’m not giving up my freedom, rights and privileges to anybody without a fight. You can’t put everyone in a stupid bubble to protect them, Just because you have a helmet on doesn’t necessarily mean your going to live through a crash, just like a seatbelt strapped you in when that semi tractor flattens your @ss doing 80 miles per hour. Figure it out. It’s my freedom of choice did you get that? Fred? My Country Tis of thee, Sweet Land of Liberty of thee I sing, over land of the free, home of the brave………..I hope your hands over your heart cause I’m a singing here…………….Let Freedom Ring! I’ll make my choice on the helmet cause I’m free and I’m a Patriot.

  13. McBolt


    1991/1992 Calif helmet bill was based on public burden. Projected $65 mil to $100 mil in costs to the state..yet less than 2 % of all vehicles were motorcycles. Channel 7 news did a great story. Caught the legislature in a dirty lie (Dick Floyd). Wilson signed into law anyway. When Dick was interviewed on why he lied…his quote “I don’t give a rats ass what figures you use. It’s the law. Wear the hat or go to jail”. Helmet laws have never really been about safety or public burden. I agree with the AMA comment, lots o studies. You’re on a bike and get hit by a car…little difference if any on medical costs…with or without a helmet. And Warren…his study is correct. Warren is one of the few on this site who has actually investigated and studied all of the facts and myths regarding wearing styrofoam and plastic on your head

  14. k howe

    MRF E-MAIL NEWS Motorcycle Riders Foundation
    236 Massachusetts Ave. NE | Suite 204 | Washington, DC 20002-4980
    202-546-0983 (voice) | 202-546-0986 (fax) | http://www.mrf.org

    12NR22 – MRF News Release – Bogus Motorcycle News Story – Take Action Now!

    07 June 2012

    Contact: Jeff Hennie, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs

    Bogus Motorcycle News Story – Take Action Now!

    Today, the left-leaning watchdog investigative website, Fairwarning.org, released a story to the media titled: “Despite Death Toll, Motorcycle Groups Strive to Muzzle U.S. Regulators”. At first glance, I took offense at the title, then I thought. Yes, that’s exactly what the Motorcycle Riders Foundation has always done and will always do.

    The article used me as a source. I knew that this was going to be a negative story, so I did my best to temper the completely clueless (and I am being generous with that term) reporter and author Rick Schmitt.

    The story is out and has already been picked up by several major newspapers and major online news sites like MSNBC. Its likely that your regional papers and reporters will reproduce at least some of the whole article.

    Here is what I would like you to do. When you come across the story on your local papers’ website or any news website, leave some comments in the feedback section on the story. Be polite and be thought-provoking. Many people will read this story and not ever hear our side of the argument. Use this as an opportunity to point out the flaws in their argument. Use the MRF Fact or Fiction pieces to provide clear, concise points.

    Upon reading the story initially, I was outraged and my first notion was to give this reporter the one-finger salute, but that will only make motorcyclists look like the yokels that they want us to be.

    The single biggest point to make with this story and all like it is this simple fact.
    •In 1997, there were 2,116 fatalities for 3,826,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.055% of the motorcyclists were killed.
    •In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.053% of the motorcyclists were killed.

    So we have more than doubled the motorcycle population. Fact. And we have actually reduced fatalities. Fact.

    Read the whole story here: http://www.fairwarning.org/2012/06/despite-death-toll-motorcycle-groups-strive-to-muzzle-u-s-regulators/

    If leaving some well thought out comments doesn’t make you feel better, I have Mr. Schmitts home phone number. In all seriousness, let’s comment bomb this story like no other.


  15. Matt

    We need checkpoints for every car at which drivers would be searched for any cell phones. Any cell phones found would be searched for recent call and texting activity. Then we’d find an explanation for the rise in biker fatalities.

  16. Beenthere

    First of all usually just read these, but for some reason I felt like writing on this one. I am just kind of getting tired of my choices being taken away.

    And yes bottom line is CHOOSE!
    Unfortunately this all started with the Constitution of the United States of America, giving the senate the ability to do this. The government has always step in were ever they see a profit to the state. The issue with Washington now; is we have a governor that is about to leave her set and now she is signing everything she want, because she is not going for reelection. We should make a law that says senators cannot sign anything one year before the reelection. The Fifth Amendment is one part of the constitution that gives the people a chance. Every year the government seems to be a taking a CHOOSE away from the people. If we want to fix this, we need to start with who’s running our government. Somehow we need to make a choice on who’s running for office. Money wins now; you buy the elections now a day’s. Put somebody that has sweat and blood on their hands, not paper cuts and ink stains.
    I have been riding for 30+ years and Yea I wear a helmet, but not because of the law, but from past accidents that were no fault of my own. Hit in the head with a deer hoof in Montana, no helmet, fluke yes. Run of the road by a semi, again no fault of my own, and no helmet. And the last crash in 08 was due to the streets not being cleaned after winter (Grave) and an inexperienced passenger, my fault, probably, first ride in February. OK more caution. Was wearing a helmet, yep, and destroyed it. OK I choose too!
    If you got a negative opinion, try going for a ride on two wheels.

  17. Vern

    In 1997, there were 2,116 fatalities for 3,826,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.055% of the motorcyclists were killed.
    In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.053% of the motorcyclists were killed.
    So we have more than doubled the motorcycle population. Fact. And we have actually reduced fatalities. Fact.
    There are several underlying reasons for the motorcycle-only road stops, none of which will reduce fatalities as much as enforcing cellphone laws and educating veh drivers to pay attention. The only positive benefit from these stops will be revenues in the areas where they may be allowed.
    Helmets are tested by Schnell and DOT for safety. This test is completed by droping the helmet from a height of 15 feet. It passes if it does not crack or break. This is equivelent to an impact at 15 MPH. Most 15 MPH accidents do not result in a fatality.
    My feeling is you do not need a helmet if you have nothing to put in one, but that should be a choice, no a mandate.

  18. McBolt

    • In 1997, there were 2,116 fatalities for 3,826,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.055% of the motorcyclists were killed.
    • In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.053% of the motorcyclists were killed.

    I had no idea that the vast majority of motorcyclists killed were/are primarily due to head trauma. When Dick Floyd (CA) presented the helmet bill (1991) for CA, the emergency room doctors at that time stated only 4% of all motorcycle deaths were due to head trauma. I’ve been riding for over 40 years and I always thought the vast majority of deaths were caused by chest trauma. I read that if a helmet actually complied with FMVSS218 (and most do not) the maximum sustainable impact was around 13.2 MPH. So what helmet offers realistic protection from brain trauma? They all protect the outside of the head…but which ones actually absorb enough energy to protect the brain? Last time I cut a helmet in two it was still styrofoam on the inside; have they changed to new modern energy aborbing material? What is the difference between a $40 helmet and $400 helmet? (besides $360). I saved that NHTSA report a long time ago, it is based on “assumptions”. Anybody can write a report and twist anyway you want if you don’t have to prove your facts. Public burden? Compared to what? I always hear the chatter but no facts…just assumptions. This is just another article to create argument from those (especially the author) who really have never personally investigated helmets. There is a good realisitc article out there…the editor was fired…pressure from the helmet companies. The guy who wrote the article is 100% pro helmet…but he told the facts “helmet performance..blowing the lid off”. It is still floating around the internet. You be responsible for your safety and I will be responsible for mine…DUI checkpoints…motorcycle checkpoints..one has to believe that real Americans are have just become a myth…thank GOD the government is here to protect me…stupid Constitution..unalienable rights…life liberty pursuit of happiness…what were they thinking?

  19. Jim

    •In 1997, there were 2,116 fatalities for 3,826,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.055% of the motorcyclists were killed.
    •In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.053% of the motorcyclists were killed.

    So we have more than doubled the motorcycle population. Fact. And we have actually reduced fatalities. Fact

  20. Bill

    ““This is…an interesting and dangerous road they are going down,” said Jackie Gillan, president of the Washington-based nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “They are so emboldened now, not only do they try to repeal laws and stop them from being enacted, they try to stop the hands of law enforcement, saying you cannot use grant money to have motorcycle checkpoints. Can you imagine if they said the same thing about sobriety checkpoints?”

    Well Jackie, sobriety checkpoints are for ALL ROAD USERS, not just motorcyclists. If police set up checkpoints FOR ALL ROAD USERS, they could educate ALL ROAD USERS to be on the lookout for motorcyclists, to NOT text while driving, to NOT yak on a cell phone when driving, etc. But, cops that set up MOTORCYCLE ONLY checkpoints do virtually NOTHING to make the roads safer. Afterall, motorcyclists are a fraction of ALL ROAD USERS.

  21. Rick

    Why don’t you mention that the amount of motorcycle riders has more than doubled while the fatality rate has actually dropped. Why not argue the facts. I ride and wear a helmet. While in Oregon it is not by my choice, it would be if given the choice.

  22. BikerEric


    I saw you; hug your purse closer to you in the grocery store line.
    But you didn’t see me put an extra $10.00 in the collection plate last Sunday.

    I saw you pull your child closer when we passed each other on the sidewalk.
    But you didn’t see me playing Santa at the local Mall.

    I saw you change your mind about going into the restaurant when you saw my bike parked out front. But you didn’t see me attending a meeting to raise more money for the hurricane relief.

    I saw you roll up your window and shake your head when I rode by.
    But you didn’t see me riding behind you when you flicked your cigarette butt out the car window.

    I saw you frown at me when I smiled at your children.
    But you didn’t see me, when I took time off from work to run toys to the homeless.

    I saw you stare at my long hair.
    But you didn’t see me and my friends cut ten inches off for Locks of Love.

    I saw you roll your eyes at our Leather jackets and gloves.
    But you didn’t see me and my brothers donate our old ones to those that had none.

    I saw you look in fright at my tattoos.
    But you didn’t see me cry as my children where born or have their name written over and in my heart.

    I saw you change lanes while rushing off to go somewhere.
    But you didn’t see me going home to be with my family.

    I saw you complain about how loud and noisy our bikes can be.
    But you didn’t see me when you were changing the CD and drifted into my lane.

    I saw you yelling at your kids in the car.
    But you didn’t see me pat my child’s hands knowing she was safe behind me.

    I saw you reading the newspaper or map as you drove down the road.
    But you didn’t see me squeeze my wife’s leg when she told me to take the next turn.

    I saw you race down the road in the rain.
    But you didn’t see me get soaked to the skin so my son could have the car to go on his date.

    I saw you run the yellow light just to save a few minutes of time.
    But you didn’t see me trying to turn right.

    I saw you cut me off because you needed to be in the lane I was in.
    But you didn’t see me leave the road.

    I saw you, waiting impatiently for my friends to pass.
    But you didn’t see me. I wasn’t there.

    I saw you go home to your family.
    But you didn’t see me. Because I died that day you cut me off.

    I was just a biker. A person with friends and a family. But you didn’t see me.
    Repost this around in hopes that people will understand the biker community..
    If you don’t repost this, it sucks to be you. I hope you never lose someone that rides.



  23. Gregg

    I have been riding motorcycles for over 45 years now—-and with a helmet most of the last 20 years. I have always been a believer of “let those who ride decide.” In 1999 I had my only 2 motorcycle accidents in those 45 years. And during both accidents, I was wearing a helmet. And both times, it was the helmet that probably saved me from serious head trauma even though I was knocked out cold. I’ll never forget the EMS responders talking to each other about what “good” shape I was in considering what had happened. I learned from that. And now I always wear a helmet, as does my son, and my daughter…and all by choice.

  24. Fred

    “Ya, Vince, bulls$&!t !! Why don’t they just make a law for everything”

    Tell yawhat Russ: Just sign an agreement that frees any medical service to deny free care to you should your thick skull meet with the pavement or telephone pole your “training” didn’t help you to avoid.

    That way the rest of us don’t have to pay your medical bills for the rest of your life! I mean you are a rugged individualist who doesn’t need laws for everything and who can take care of himself, right?

    You OK with that Russ?

  25. Brad

    I have been riding for over 30 years and ride an average of 12,000 miles a year. I always wear a helmet and one has saved my life when I was hit by a pickup that took a left turn across my lane. I think it is a personal choice that everyone should make themselves. I also think that I should get a discount on my bike insurance for always wearing a helmet. Riders that make the choice to not wear should be required to have more insurance than $20,000. I should not have to pay higher insurance rates because of your choice. I support your choice, but don’t make me pay for it with higher rates.

  26. Russ Peterson

    Neil, sorry I spelled your name wrong, But the offer is still there, I saw you didn’t capitalize your N for Neil so good grammar didn’t matter much to you, I’m hurt but the offer still stands, I’m a man of my word.

  27. Dewey Laws

    I am sick of all of this about helments saving lives. Why don’t all of you that want to push this on us start wearing one inside of your autos, better yet wear one when you walk out the door for a walk. This way you will be protected in a auto crash are if you step on your own big feet when you can’t see past your nose for letting someone else run your life by taking all of you freedom of choice away from you.

  28. GOWhitten

    I should have clarified that when I said the AMA was originally against helmet laws, I meant the American Medical Association, not the American Motorcycle Association (I do not know they stood on this issue in the 1970s and 1980s). I started riding motorcycles in the early 1960s and it never occurred to us to wear (let alone have) a helmut. By the 1970s when I started riding dirt bikes and competing in enduro races, everyone wore helmuts. I still ride today, and I do wear a helmut. It seems like a good idea, just like it is a good idea not to smoke.

  29. neil

    nice mark, im sure you have seen me drive before so you would know i never use my phone while driving. Just because you ride a bike does not make you unable to cause an accident. ITS YOUR LACK OF PROTECTION THAT CHANGES AN ACCIDENT TO A DEATH

  30. charles Thomas

    Interesting how they got all their information from the nhtsa documents and from insurance companies who want an excuse to raise rates to line their pockets

  31. DHStraayer

    I teach statistics, and frequently commute on an electric motor scooter (with helmet). In teaching regression, two mantras are “correlation does not imply causation” and “what are the potential lurking variables?” Warren’s link makes an assertion about a lurking variable in “helmet laws save lives” argument – that the reduction in fatality is due to reduction in riding. I’m uncomfortable with his focus on Death/Accident ratio – that smells of “cherry-picking”. I would like to see helmet advocates directly address the lurking variable problem, though.
    Sometimes we make weak arguments “for the greater good”. I’ve seen it suggested that this happens in the second-hand-smoke debate. “Maybe second-hand-smoke isn’t that dangerous, but prohibiting smoking in public places discourages a lot of smokers into giving it up, so a little poor reasoning is justified by the ends.”
    Is it possible that advocates are tolerating weak reasoning because the effect of getting fewer cycle riders is so effective at reducing harm?

  32. Linda

    I have been involved with the motorcyclist rights movement for over 22 years and my question to the writer of this article is “show me the money”!! Most states have an organization named ABATE(A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments or the more politically correct American Bikers Aiming Towards Education) or Concerned Motorcyclists, or such. These organizations are ALL volunteer…none of us get reimbursed to travel, in my case 2 hours to visit the state capital every Monday night January-March. Do motorcyclists have credibility in the state houses?
    Damn right we do, but not because we go the the $500 a plate fundraisers, but becuase we tell the truth, we are presistant, we build longtime friendships with the Legislators. We are the ones serving the food at the fundraisers, parking the cars, putting out yard signs etc. The writer uses terms like “muzzle”, thwarted, gag, emboldened if you felt that your rights were being abridged by the nanny state would you sit by and let it go?? The helmet issue is almost a dead issue for many of us, smart highways, emmissions, engine size restrictions, tire aging, texting and driving deaths, E15 gasoline engine damage and a host of others are really what motorcyclists are concerned with. We were told some time ago by a NHSTA guru that when they finished with the new regulations that the only thing we would be able to change on our motorcycles would be “color and chrome”. One final note, let’s see the stats for head injuries from vehicle accidents with unrestrained or restrained passangers. We have already looked at these, it will make you wonder why auto drivers are not required to wear a helmet!! After all safety first!! The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome, safe rides

  33. neil

    well i would doubt you could do a very good job of it seeing that you cant spell my name right when its in front of you. But seeing that you have very little up there to protect with a helmet maybe it is ok to not require them.

  34. Mark

    @neil, If you don’t like insurance premiums because of folks on motorcycles, GET OFF THE CELL PHONE AND CHECK YOUR BLIND SPOT BEFORE YOU MOVE INTO MY LANE!

    If you don’t cause crashes with motorcycles and you put yourself into an insurance pool of drivers who don’t, you don’t have to worry about insurance costs. So whether or not we are wearing helmets or not only matters if you are at-fault in an accident and hit us.

    I choose to wear a helmet to protect myself from YOUR UNSAFE DRIVING CAUSING YOUR CAR TO HIT ME.

  35. Russ Peterson

    Niel, I’ll sell you that insurance for a good rate, I can send you a quote today and guess what? I’ll enter you in a drawing for a free airline ticket to………..you ready? ya? North Korea, all expenses paid, free Hotel, fine dining, all you can drink open bar, oh wait you’ll need extra dum@ss insurance for that, I’ll have to redo the quote, but it will enter you for another chance at the trip! :)

  36. James

    In the Land of the Free: “Let those who RIDE decide” – period.

  37. neil

    great should i get dumb@ss insurance because people cant wear one piece of protective equipment? I would rather them pass legislation to prevent anyone else but you for being liable for your head injury from an accident where you didnt wear a helmet.

  38. Harold Kushner

    I am currently 81 years old and have been riding since 1992. At the present time I have accumulated over 400,000 miles of riding, both for pleasure and business. I have been involved in two serious incidents with automobiles. One I was rear ended, my wife was on the back and a speeding SUV hit us at about 65 mph according to witnesses in a 45 mph speed limit zone. In the other a 16 year old with a 2 week old license made a left turn into me while talking to her passenger and looking to her right. Both of these incidents resulted in head contact with the pavement without head injury because we were wearing full helmets. The biggest advantage of wearing a helmet is protection against inept automobile operators.

  39. Steve

    How many more motorcycles are on the road now vs. 1997? How many of these deaths are due to major head injury? I think we need to know the answer to these two questions before we make assumptions about this data. I see two very partisan sides yelling at one another rather than looking for the truth.

  40. GOWhitten

    Everyone is missing the real point here. When all the helmet laws were originally enacted, the pool of potential organ donors significant decreased. Why do you think the the AMA was mute on this subject originally (they received a lot of flack about this)? I say, let them ride without helmets and let other people live!

  41. KKing

    Russ Peterson – Well said!

    Warren – Great Post!

    I ride and wear a helmet, but only because I want to, which is the way it should be.

  42. Pete terHorst

    Fairwarning.org’s statement that it “strives to provide [this] coverage as a non-partisan, non-ideological public service” does not ring true in this story.

    The federally funded motorcycle crash causation study, conducted by Professor Hugh “Harry” Hurt, Jr., documented the efficacy of rider education. The 1981 report said: “The basic Motorcycle Rider Course of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation is effective in training motorcycle riders and those trained riders are both less involved and less injured in motorcycle accidents.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also cited rider education as effective in its 2005 report, “Promising Practices in Motorcycle Rider Education and Licensing.” The report states: “Although evidence of the effectiveness of rider education on crash reduction is mixed, several studies have shown that trained riders tend to have fewer crashes, less severe crashes, and overall lower cost of damage resulting from crashes.”

    Why were these facts left out of this article to provide objective balance?

    Furthermore, the article selectively cites statistics to suggest that motorcycle fatalities are on the rise, yet failed to point out that motorcycle sales surged dramatically during the same period, or that motorcycle fatalities dropped 16% percent in 2009 and have stayed relatively flat in 2010 and 2011.

    Highlighting Michael Dabbs statement that “Perhaps they ought to be left there like roadkill” displays crassness and editorial bias because there is no evidence that injured motorcyclists are any more likely to be a public burden than other roadway users. A Harborview Medical Center study published in 1988 reported that injured motorcyclists in the trauma center relied on public funds a lower percentage of the time than did automobile drivers to pay their hospital bills during the same time period. Also, a 1992 study by the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center reported that automobile drivers and motorcyclists have their medical costs covered by insurance at a nearly identical rate.

    All of this information (and more) was provided to your reporter, Rick Schmitt, in our extensive correspondence. I can only assume that his copy was selectively edited upstream by your editor(s) to fit a preconceived desire to promote helmet mandates.

    The American Motorcyclist Association strongly advocates helmet use, but opposes mandates because they do nothing to prevent crashes. Motorcycle crash prevention should be the overarching policy of our elected officials and the regulatory community. Programs such as rider training and motorist awareness are effective, yet history has taught us that when helmet mandates are enforced, scarce resource dollars are siphoned away from these programs.

    We applaud the courage of legislators, such as U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who have taken on the powerful helmet mandate interest groups that seem less concerned with promoting policies that prevent motorcycle crashes, and more concerned with reducing insurance payments after crashes occur.

    Pete terHorst
    AMA spokesperson

  43. Bob Rudolph

    I’ve been a motorcyclist for around 55 years – dating to well before the time helmets were either fashionable or useful.

    Mostly I wear a helmet.

    I am, however, convinced that the call for universal helmets is misplaced – a helmet may assure that I don’t die, but by assuring that it can also assure me a “life” as a quadriplegic or in a persistent vegetative state. Those are not life choices I want – I’d rather be dead quickly.

    I also consider such a law to be discriminatory – not against motorcyclist, but against all occupants of all other highway vehicles. After all, head injuries are a primary cause of death regardless of chosen vehicle – would it not be logical therefore to require all drivers and passengers in all highway vehicles to wear an approved helmet? Has there ever been a study on the effectiveness of helmets for other motorized vehicles? I have to believe that racing drivers would not be required to wear helmets and fire suits if there were not some benefit to them, as both can be uncomfortable.

    I will support a law mandating helmets when it is written in such a way as to afford all persons in all types of vehicle the same protection as folks want to assure for motorcyclists.

    Unless of course there is a reason to believe that my head and its contents are of more value than a person in a car.

  44. Mark

    I choose to wear a helmet when I ride, because it will save MY life.

    That said, please stop focusing on forcing other people to protect themselves from their own foolish behavior and please start focusing on telling them WHY they should and HOW they can. Whatever public harm (in terms of insurance rates, social costs, or emergency response expenses) biker fatalities may do is easily outweighed by a reduction in the retirement liabilities of social security and medicare.

    As for the growing anti-helmet libertarian trend, letting people making their own decisions when it comes to things that can only harm or help THEM is simply good government. It’s healthy for the country. I don’t see why FairWarning.org needs to paint this as an ominous trend.

  45. Steve Timpani

    I have been riding motorcycles for over 45 years and anybody who fights helmut laws already has brain issues. It’s like cigareete packs that clearly state “Cancer” on the side and still smoke. Yes we have to help the idiots that can’t or wont help themselves. If I’m in a car and have a fendor bendor with another car (no problem), but if I hit someone on a motorcycle and they are seriosly injured or die because they didn’t have a helmut on, I have to live the rest of my life with the guilt because of their choice. Wear a helmut every motorcylce rider law or no law.

  46. Noel F.

    In 1997, there were 2,116 fatalities for 3,826,000 motorcycles registered. That’s 0.055%
    In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. That’s 0.053%

    So, even though there were actually MORE motorcycles on the road, the percentage of fatal accidents dropped. And it’s still less than 1% of motorcyclists on the road. So I’m not sure that FairWarning.org is really doing their due diligence when it comes to researching their facts for this story. Plus, you can’t blame just one factor for something with as many variables as this issue has. For example, how many of these new motorcycle deaths were caused by a some idiot texting (obviously not a problem in 1997) while driving? Look at how much safer the average car is now than in 1997. Now look at a motorcycle. Pretty much the same safety features as in 1997.
    I wear a helmet. I don’t wear it because I doubt my abilities, or because I drive dangerously. It’s because I don’t trust the Cagers that commute to work on the same roads that I do. But I have the right to not wear one if I so choose. Just as I have the right to CHOOSE to smoke (I don’t) or to weigh 300lbs (again, I don’t). There’s some things that the government doesn’t need to stick their noses into. Personally, I think this is one of them.

  47. Warren

    Get the facts. Read Helmet Law Facts here: http://www.sbumaui.org/helmet_law_facts.pdf

  48. Russ Peterson

    Ya, Vince, bulls$&!t !! Why don’t they just make a law for everything, why don’t they make a law so everyday when you go out in the sun you put you spf50 on so don’t get skin cancer, why don’t they make a law for every little thing that might endanger your life and others, if you got a head cold your quarentined to your house so nobody else gets it. You idiots out there want a law for everything. I want my choice to enjoy life how I see it, not how everyone wants me to live it. I like freedom to choose my own way, not being led down the road like a herd of sheep. I ride a motorcycle and I’ll choose when and where I feel like putting on a helmet, it’s my choice not yours or anybody elses. When people go to Mt Everest to get to the top and running the risk of death, do you think there’s anybody out there saying, oh my, you can’t do that, you might die, well maybe just maybe there should be a law for that to, the list is endless on every thing in this world, endless, we in the US enjoy freedom! And there seem to be this thing people like and that is giving up freedom, go for it is all I can say, don’t include the rest of us. Move to a communist country if you like that atmosphere, North Korea would be a excellent choice, I’ll even buy your one way ticket just let me know.

  49. Mark welch

    Is this a helmet issue or an increase in riders due to a rise in fuel cost? What percent of riders died in accidents last year compared to any other year? A much more accurate comparison. I ride. I Wear a helmet

  50. Louis V. Lombardo


    Very well done!

    A checkpoint suggestion. We need a checkpoint in Washington for all lobbyists and legislators who are hired to advocate for anti life saving measures to put on their moral and ethical helmets to protect the public interest.

    Maybe FairWarning can get a grant to create computerized a Wall of Shame for all lobbyists and legislators who act against the health and safety of the public.

    Thank you, too, for the quote that shockingly may be truer in practice than one might think:

    “Maybe we ought to save some of the costs when police or emergency responders go to the scene of a crash and the person is not wearing a helmet. Perhaps they ought to be left there like roadkill.”

    – Michael Dabbs, president of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, attacking the logic of helmet law critics

    The fact is that for decades – for all crash victims – the percentage of all crash fatalities not taken to any facility for medical treatment has been steadily growing and now exceeds 50%.

    See Figure 2 at:

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