“Motorcycle fatalities are not only our No. 1 source of organs, they are also the highest-quality source of organs, because donors are usually young, healthy people with no other traumatic injuries to the body, except to the head… [a mandatory motorcycle helmet law] could put us out of business – or at least the business of organ transplants.”

—Transplant surgeon quoted in “Brain Dead: Why Are There No Mandatory Helmet Laws?” by Jerry Garrett, New York Times online, July 7, 2008.

Donorcycle. You’ve overheard that ugly term, maybe while standing in line at the bank, helmet in hand. The presumption is that riding a motorcycle makes us suicidal and good for nothing but a source of freshly harvested organs. But unlike most stereotypes, this one actually has some legs – one study showed that helmet laws reduce the number of available organs 10% – which means we motorcyclists provide a sad but useful function to society. Motorcyclists are generous folk, so it’s not surprising that we’re pretty good at checking that box that identifies us an organ donor, resulting in thousands of lives saved every year. If only all Americans were so generous.

I’m writing this because my buddy Bob needs a kidney. Bob is an awesome guy. Everybody knows a Bob, which is why, I suppose, it’s such a common moniker. Bob (and I mean pretty much all Bobs, not just my Bob, who isn’t even actually named Bob) will invite a perfect stranger into his house and then machine him a part in his basement workshop. Bob will open up his wallet and give a five to a homeless guy, just because he asked nicely. Bob will say “yes,” just because I think he actually lacks the mental infrastructure to say “no,” no matter how many times he’s taken advantage of.

Thanks to John Auchter for use of his hilarious cartoon.

Thanks to John Auchter for use of his hilarious cartoon.

Bob has polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and is currently on dialysis. He’s been on the donor list for a while now, and has had a few different donors offer and then back out, for whatever reason. So, Bob really deserves a kidney. I’d give him one of mine, but I have a medical condition that precludes me from donation, as does his lovely wife. I don’t think the issue I have makes my kidney unsuitable (or dangerous to donate), but the organ-donation laws here in the U.S.A. are weighted (maybe too heavily) to prevent that feeling of regret that occurs when you wake up in a hospital room lighter by one kidney.

The hurdles are very effective. There are about 120,000 folks waiting for organs, and somebody is added to the recipient list for all organs every 10 minutes or so, according to the U.S. Government’s organ-donation information website, but there are only about 15,000 donations, live and deceased, annually. Even though it’s an easy thing to do, most Americans aren’t registered organ and tissue donors. In fact, even though more than 90% of Americans 18 and over have state-issued ID – either an ID card or drivers license – less than half of them are registered organ and tissue donors. Why wouldn’t you be a donor? Well, some people really do have legitimate reasons – religious objections, medical or other factors that make all their tissue and organs unsuitable, but that would constitute a small percentage of Americans.

Here are some other possible reasons:

I’m scared you’ll farm my organs.

No, despite what you saw in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, or what your friend Liz swears happened to her ex-boyfriend’s sister’s piano teacher’s rabbi, you will not wake up in a dirty Hong Kong hotel room bathtub with fresh incisions from where the nice people you met at a karaoke lounge in Weehawken, New Jersey took out your kidney. That has never happened. The Chinese government may or may not be harvesting organs from political prisoners, but otherwise pretty much all organ donations are above board, especially here in the U.S.A., where it’s illegal to sell organs or body parts.

They’ll declare me dead too soon because they’ll be in such a hurry to get at my organs.

This is also mostly urban legend, though it has happened. However, because of very strict legal and ethical guidelines, you’re more likely to be mistakenly declared dead by a regular doctor than by a transplant surgeon. There is an argument to be made for not registering as an organ and tissue donor, though – your family can insist on more stringent tests to be sure you are really dead before any transplant procedures start. But that can also reduce the chance of a successful procedure.

You have two, but you don’t need two. Very few kidney donors have ever needed transplants or died from kidney failure. So consider giving one to Bob.

You have two, but you don’t need two. Very few kidney donors have ever needed transplants or died from kidney failure. So consider giving one to Bob.

I’m old, tough, and I love cheap tequila. They don’t want my organs.

Just because you don’t appreciate your liver doesn’t mean nobody else will. There is no upper age limit for organ donation. In fact, 32% of donors are over 50, and a 92-year-old dude from Texas named Carlton Blackburn became the nation’s oldest liver donor when he died from a brain hemorrhage. His aged-to-perfection organ was transplanted into a 69-year-old woman, saving her life (no, I don’t know if she’s still alive).

I want an open-casket funeral.

Not to worry–you won’t be butchered in the local Piggly-Wiggly meat department. Thanks to the art of surgeons and morticians, you’ll probably look better than you do now, going by what I’ve seen of our readers in person. Even Orthodox Jews, who believe it’s a desecration to alter, disfigure or otherwise damage a corpse, will waive that restriction to save lives.

I don’t have time to register.

And yet you had time to read my column? You need help. Meanwhile, I’ve got the links for most of you:


Gabe Ets-Hokin is a gourmet chef and psychotherapist. He is currently shopping for some fava beans and a nice Chianti. If you do want to save Bob’s life and give him your kidney, email Gabe at getshokin@gmail.com. It will make up for all the bad things you did in your life, including buying a Suzuki Madura and taking your wife to see Biker Boyz.

  • SRMark

    Great message. Pass them on when you no longer need them.

  • DickRuble

    “Very few kidney donors have ever needed transplants or died from kidney failure” maybe, but those who did surely missed that extra one. And their risk of needing one at some point all of a sudden doubled.

    • You are hilarious, Dick! But seriously, life expectancy, kidney failure rates and many other measures are unchanged for living kidney donors. Your remaining kidney increases in size up to 50% and does the work of its missing twin, kind of like how motorcycle magazine staffers do more work for the same pay when there’s a merger-induced round of layoffs.

      I only put in links for TX, CA and FL because I didn’t want to put 50 links in there and those 3 states have the largest populations of motorcyclists.

      • DickRuble

        Both my parents had a kidney removed (one at age 55, the other at 70). My father ultimately died of kidney failure. Yes the one left gave up. I also have a PhD and know a couple of things about human physiology that you many not know. Get a medical degree in Nephrology before you venture giving advice to people about their organs.

        • I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m only repeating what the medical literature and kidney donation foundations all agree on–there is no evidence (so far) on increased health risks from kidney donation. I don’t need to be a doctor to say that.

          • DickRuble

            Gee, I wonder if kidney donation foundations have a vested interest in increasing the number of transactions.

          • Yes they do, Dick, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t right. The literature agrees. Not everything is a dastardly conspiracy, you know.

          • DickRuble

            Do me a favor, since you are so literate, find the compensation for the executives of the kidney donation foundations and publish them here.

          • National Kidney Foundation IRS disclosure:

            The entire executive board and all officers–41 people–were paid about $3 million in 2015. The CEO made $390k with bennies.

            Compare that to what CEOs in the healthcare industry make, according to Modern Healthcare magazine:

            “Median total compensation in 2014 for the 117 CEOs for whom Modern Healthcare collected compensation data was $5.4 million, with a median increase of 9.6% over the prior year.”

            You’re really barking up the wrong tree, Dick. Not every institution in our world is corrupt and bad.

          • DickRuble

            You think $390K/year is reasonable for managing 41 people, in a business that goes around asking people to donate their organs or those of dead loved ones? And this is supposedly non profit? Have you seen the cost of receiving a kidney transplant? There were 777 of them in 2014 at approx 330,000 a pop. Yes, compared to the CEO of some Biotech fraud, it’s probably 1/10th. Better comparisons are Biotech startups, with 40 employees or so. The CEO’s salaries are 70k-200k. I still don’t see how that makes you feel better. I could go on and on the so called non-profits (check the Wounded Warrior scam).

          • All I can think about is the hundreds of thousands of people who can live a normal life and spend time with their families. I think reasonable people would prioritize that. I’m glad they’re doing the work they do and look forward to having my friend around for many years. But please enjoy your conspiracy theories and warped view of the world.

          • DickRuble

            We’re lucky we, the conspiracy theorists, to have you to warp reality in the opposite direction.

          • GreggJ

            Folks, it is time we all realized that there is probably not an actual DickRuble that exists or has existed in the real world. Would a real person respond to a plea to help save a friend’s life in such a heartless and cruel manner? I think not. That is why I and many others, do not believe this “DickRuble” is a real person. The only evidence I (and everyone I know) will accept is a video of this “person” talking with either President Obama or the Pope where “DickRuble” is mentioned by name and there is clearly an interaction between the two. Anything else would clearly be too easy to fake.

            Please note that I only respond to real people so if “DickRuble” responds, I will not reply. Computer programs are just so sophisticated these days, but apparently have not yet mastered the art of displaying human compassion. That is how you can spot them on the internet posing as real people.

          • DickRuble

            010000100110010100100000011100110111010101110010011001 0100100000011101000110111100100000011001000111001
            Talk cheap..beep.. you donate your kidneys to Gabe friend ..beep.. set example..beep while I look for picture with Francis and Barack beep…0100001001100101001000000111001101110
            10101110010011001 0100100000011101000110111100100000

          • DickRuble
  • Sentinel

    Regardless of the obvious fact that helmet wearing prevents a lot of severe injuries and death, it’s not anyone’s place to be forcing someone to wear one against their own will. That’s what’s called “tyranny”, no matter how cute and sweet you try to dress it up.

    • John B.

      Tyranny – Despotic abuse of authority. How is a helmet law enacted by a duly elected legislature and signed into law by a democratically elected governor an “abuse” of authority? You do not agree with helmet laws, but that does not mean a tyrant has victimized you. If you don’t like the law, work to change it.

      • Sentinel

        How can you not understand that for anyone to dictate what someone else wears, and ultimately under threat of life destruction or even death for non-compliance is tyrannical? Can it be any more plain and simple than this?

        • John B.

          Oh I see, you were referring to the laws of physics and not helmet laws as tyrannical. Yes, the laws of physics cause “life destruction” or even death when an unprotected head is subjected to rapid deceleration.
          When artists and dissidents disappear from the streets without due process that’s tyranny. Helmet laws passed through our democratic process are not tyranny. You have distorted the word “Tyranny” to suit your argument. There are limits on every right in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That’s because your rights must end where other’s rights begin or you would be the tyrant.

          • Sentinel

            You could hardly have made a more self-defeating and self-contradictory statement, but I’m sure you’ll try now. Your mind is either wired backwards, or your just another stupid troll, or even both.

          • John B.

            I don’t know what it means to have one’s mind wired backwards, nor do I know how to diagnose that condition. So you may have a point there. A fair assessment of my intelligence would conclude I am relatively intelligent, but average among intelligent people; i.e., I’m not stupid.

            Internet trolls post inflammatory content solely to inflame or upset people. I strive to attack ideas, and not people although I admit I play small ball now and then. In this case, however, I only attacked your assertion helmet laws are tantamount to government tyranny, and have not attacked you personally.

            On the political venn diagram my politics lies in the shaded area where socially liberal, fiscally conservative, anti-authoritarian, and libertarian intersect, but I’m not sure such a space exists. Perhaps only in my miswired mind.

            I trust this comment meets or exceeds your expectations.

          • Old MOron

            “Hey, what’s a matter man? We’re gonna come round at 12…”

            Welcome back, John.

          • Wren1

            To call any mandatory equipment laws “tyrannical” is excessive hyperbole. They are authoritarian, an example of the nanny state and invasive, but a bit below tyrannic.

          • Sentinel

            The only kind of real freedom and liberty there is, is that of the
            “individual”, and as long as an individual is not stripping the rights
            and life away from another, no one has any legitimate right to do them
            harm. What part of this do you not understand?

          • Ser Samsquamsh

            Thanks fun stranger. John B. is one of the most consistently intelligent posters on this site. Get back under your bridge now.

          • Sentinel

            Sadly your statement there only proves your own lack thereof.

          • Ser Samsquamsh

            Good try now! With some patient practice you’ll get it if only you just believe in yourself. xoxo

          • John B.

            Thank you Ser!

          • Sentinel

            So in your mind, forcing someone at gunpoint to do something against their own will is no “tyrannical”?

        • mccuerc

          You have defined then all laws as tyranny. Not some laws. ALL LAWS. What you advocate is anarchy.

          Some laws are stupid, vapid, cause much more trouble than they are worth, or fail at their intended aim. That does not make them tyranny. How they are made defines tyranny. Tyrannies act by force and dictate; laws are just what I say the are and you can not challenge them. Democracies act by consensual agreement (either directly or by representative), codified into law, and laws that are always capable of being challenged at law or amended by agreement, and only then can laws be enforced, if need be by force.

          • Sentinel

            The only kind of real freedom and liberty there is, is that of the “individual”, and as long as an individual is not stripping the rights and life away from another, no one has any legitimate right to do them harm. How is this so hard to understand?

          • BDan75

            If that’s the way you want to be treated by the world, great…but I think you’ll find that one way or another, most people on the planet expect something different of life. So you’re gonna have to find a pretty remote place to fully exercise your “freedom.”

            That, or you’ll have to find the sort of place where it won’t be legitimate, government-sanctioned “harm” that worries you (e.g., having to wear a helmet or pay a fine), but the non-legitimate, unsanctioned kind (e.g., being murdered by a gang of young men just because you had something they wanted). Seems like a fair trade to me…

          • Sentinel

            However popular and pervasive the brainwashed and programmed slave-minded of the world may be, doesn’t mean that I will ever join them with my agreement or consent to partake in it.

          • mccuerc

            Oh dear. Do you think that rights are self effectuating? You must. History is full of individuals strong and sturdy whose rights have been stripped from them by others. Murdered, gelded, enslaved, tied to the land by serfdom, subject only to the whims of their owner. Time and time again slavery resurfaces. As do nobles versus commoners, and you commoners have fewer rights. What we call rights are the agreements of people to not act in certain ways. These agreements seem to work by converting us from enemies into kin. That’s the evolutionary thinking, but they are very fragile. In a well run society, like ours, the artificiality of rights disappears and they seem solid. Which is a good thing. But they are artificial, they are maintained by agreement and by mutual defense. So you have an obligation to actually mold and maintain and argue about the laws, the laws that ultimately let you pretend to be totally independent, which is a very good thing, not just gripe about em. Write your legislators.

          • Sentinel

            You can try and muddy up and complicate the matter all you like, but the real simple and clear truth is that there is only one principal that underlays any an all legitimate so-called laws or rules, and that is self-ownership. To assume and accept that slavery is the natural, good, and acceptable norm, and then to insult with the suggestion of begging and pleading for freedom from our slave handlers is beyond ludicrous.

    • GreggJ

      Yea, I hate tyranny too. I particularly hate the tyranny of people forcing me to pay for their bad taste in fashion like not wearing a helmet cause, you know, “freedom man.” Be free all you want, but then don’t expect me and every other taxpayer to pick up the tab for you because you’re a slave to fashion. But that is not how it works.

      Here is what the NHTA in says, “Helmet laws significantly reduce the strain on public resources.
      Unhelmeted riders cost more to treat at the hospital, spend a longer
      time in rehabilitation, and are more likely to require some form of
      public assistance to for pay medical bills and rehabilitation. In 1991,
      prior to enacting its helmet law, California’s state medical insurance
      program paid $40 million for the treatment of motorcycle-related head
      injuries. That figure dropped to $24 million after enactment of a
      universal helmet law”http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/safebike/costs.html

      Or you can look at this study, or dozens like it: “A significant difference was found for total hospital charges. The mean
      total hospital charge for helmeted patients was $4184.26 compared to
      $7383.31 for unhelmeted patients. The prediction model was statistically
      significant, indicating that not wearing a helmet starts the patient at
      a cost of $3199.06″http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22458792

      Or this one: http://freakonomics.com/2013/06/13/fewer-helmets-higher-healthcare-costs/

      So yea, your freedom to steal money from my pocket cause you are too embarrassed to wear a helmet. Sorry, I just can’t get behind that.

      • Sentinel

        Two or more wrongs do not make a right. Both socialism/communism as well as corporatism and tyranny are all very bad things. One will never be an excuse for another.

      • Wren1

        In America, the greater good has never been an acceptable excuse for taking away individual rights, at least until recently. I am pro-choice – on everything – drugs, guns, abortion, suicide and helmets too. I also want universal single payer national healthcare, The relatively small number of motorcycle head injuries accident victims who have a $3200 greater cost per case is not large enough for me to desire to take away a rider’s freedom to choose to save a few bucks. You could also ban skateboards and save millions on broken arms, the list goes on.

    • I’m sorry, how did helmet laws become relevant to this discussion? I just posted the cartoon because it’s funny.

      • DickRuble

        Obviously people think brain transplant is possible and spilled brains may not work quite as well as protected ones.

        • Ian Parkes

          You’d have to conclude it’s already happening and those fears were well-founded.

  • John B.

    Great article Gabe. I hope your friend Bob gets a new kidney soon.

    One of my close friends received a heart last year after suffering a near fatal heart attack. His Father died from heart disease in his early 40s and my friend convinced himself “that” would not happen to him. To receive a heart transplant has been a miracle for my friend and his family, and after witnessing my friend’s good fortune it’s difficult to understand why more people don’t register as organ donors.

    The Constitution and Bill of Rights gives us the ability to assert our freedom in destructive ways (e.g., to have a KKK rally, or to ride without a helmet), but they were not intended for that purpose. Rather, these documents were intended to give us the freedom we need to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. In other words, wear a helmet while riding and find some other way to assert your rights and/or voice a protest.

    • No! Don’t wear a helmet! Especially if you have good kidneys.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    This article is so hilarious and yet utterly serious and disturbing. There was no better way to touch the problem than in this kind of fashion, Gabe. Good job!

  • Randy Pancetalk

    “you’ll probably look better than you do now, going by what I’ve seen of our readers in person”

    Not just the readers… There’s a reason MO staff are only pictured with their helmets on. Unlike a paper bag, a helmet won’t fall off.

  • Dave

    Please add a link for Utah, where I have actually seen an un-helmeted adult rider on the road with un-helmeted pre-adolescent child as pillion.

  • Wren1

    I have no sense of altruism and I am adamantly opposed to the laws that prohibit anyone making payments for organs or profiting from the sale of my parts. I have no organ donor authorizations, if you want part of me pay my heirs. I am a helmet user 98% of the time but I do ride short distances in the summer sometimes without a helmet. I live in Texas where it is an option, I am Pro-Choice on pretty much everything so I respect your right to choose not to, to not wear a seat belt, to own a gun, to have an abortion or commit suicide too.

    • Would your opinion change if a close family member needed an organ transplant?

      • Wren1

        No Gabe, I still want organs to be available through commerce not just altruism.
        You want a kidney for Bob? What if you could just buy one from a willing compatible donor? If it were not against federal law to buy and sell our parts, there would be MORE organs available. Especially kidneys. bone marrow, other possible donations of surviving donors.

        • The free market has limits, Wren. Please do some research on Iran and organ donation and let me know if you want to live in a world like that.

          • Wren1

            You don’t think the AMA [Medical, not motorcycle] and a commodity exchange like system couldn’t do better than Iran? Seriously?

            To have reimbursement available does not end donations, just adds to the pool.

    • John B.

      I sympathize with your libertarian leanings, but can foresee ethical dilemmas that could result from allowing people to sell their organs. Specifically, in parts of the world where people may legally sell their organs poor people are exploited for the benefit of the wealthy. If you Google, “ethical considerations in organ donation” you will find scholarly articles that discuss these ethical issues in detail (See, e.g., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12566971) In short, there are no easy answers, but it suffices to say commerce in human organs creates an ethical minefield that defies pity policy statements.

  • Bmwclay

    I am 70 years old, diabetic and bad heart. My donor cycle is the only thing keeping me alive.

  • Allison Sullivan

    I’m happy to be signed up as an organ donor. I’m not going to need anything when I’m dead. If it makes someone else’s life better, have at it … less to cremate afterwards.

  • DickRuble

    Do members of US Congress, Senate, or NBA/NFL/MLB stars go on waiting lists when they need an organ? You would have to be seriously stupid to think doctors won’t pull the plug on you when

    a) some big wig shows up in need of transplant
    b) there is so much money to be made by doctors, nurses, hospitals.

    The only people not allowed (by law) to make a profit of organ sales are the patients and their families. That should tell you something.

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      I’ve gotten spam from doctors wanting to buy kidneys. They weren’t offering very much though – less than 10K. I suppose that’s a fortune to some poor beggar living in India though.

    • uniquename72

      “You would have to be seriously stupid to think doctors won’t hasten to pull the plug on you …”

      As someone who’s worked in a hospital, I urge you to stop being a conspiracy theory-believing coward.

      Rich people go overseas to get transplants so they don’t have to deal with a waiting list. Nobody in the US is going to kill you for organs, no matter “what your friend Liz swears happened to her ex-boyfriend’s sister’s piano teacher’s rabbi.”

      There’s a reason the author of this article and the rest of us who actually know stuff are laughing at you.

      • DickRuble

        You sure are fluent in rabbi jokes. Shows you actually know stuff. Let’s see if you know what I urge you to do.

  • John B.

    I read Motorcycle-USA will cease operations tomorrow. Clearly, writing only about motorcycles even while producing great content is not enough to keep present day readers interested. In my opinion, the MO-crew does a great job combining hard core motorcycle content with remotely related topics (e.g., guns, politics, kidneys, depression, amputations etc.) to keep us readers highly entertained. I read several hours a day, but would more willingly part with my Wall Street Journal subscription than lose access to motorcycle.com. You guys got it right!

    PS – I don’t anything about the guy, but Motorcycle-USA moto-journalist Adam Waheed generates great content and IMO has an interesting perspective on motorcycle topics. Also, he’s cool. I wonder where Adam will end up after Friday….

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      Adam has a peculiar way of speaking but I like his enthusiasm. I tuned into MocicleUSA if he had a new review.

    • DickRuble

      Motorcycle-USA was a great publication. Their e Magazine (you can read issue 13) is beautifully put together and the writing and pictures are superb. I am presuming that, because they were owned by MAG Retail group (Motorycle Superstore and J&P Cycles) they didn’t need to pander as much to advertisers. Their writing was a bit different than that of others and so were their takes on Best Motorcycle of the Year. Too bad they couldn’t keep it going..

      • John B.

        I drifted away from Motorcycle-USA, but recall they had a slightly different take in shootouts and Best Motorcycle(s) of the Year. There’s always a market for talented people, but transitions are often difficult. One door closes and another opens….

        • Kevin Duke

          For 7 years I worked hard to develop MotoUSA from a poster of press releases to a top-notch publication before I came to MO, so I feel bad for those guys. Sadly, the moto pub biz is contracting. I prefer competition.

  • Good stuff, Gabe. My uncle died in his 40s waiting for a liver donor. Even before then, though, I’ve always been a registered donor. I mean, what am I going to want all these bits for when I’m dead? Same thing with my stereo and shoes –– someone else can have them, too.

  • Eric Konarske

    I disagree with the cartoon. EVERYONE should wear a helmet, but NOBODY should support helmet laws. Making a law to save lives ends where? Think how many lives you could save by outlawing motorcycles altogether. Legislating safety is a losing proposition. We will all eventually lose.

    • SteveSweetz

      Nah. “Slippery slope” logic is a fallacy because laws aren’t actually made in a world populated exclusively by the same extremists that apply this theory.

      The real world has nuance and gradation and the existence of helmet laws or other completely reasonable laws regulating safety has not and will not lead to motorcycles being outlawed or more unreasonable restrictions on your freedom and there’s essentially zero precedent to suggest otherwise.

      Helmet laws have been on the books in several states for over 40 years now and riding motorcycles is still legal in all of them, with no seriously treated proposals to change that.

    • John B.

      “Legislating safety is a losing proposition.”

      If you get the opportunity, read an article on construction of the Hoover Dam or Golden Gate Bridge. Workers died so frequently from construction accidents on these depression-era projects that camps sprang up where men seeking work would wait to replace workers who died or were injured on the project. (Or, read about construction-related migrant worker deaths in Qatar as it builds the stadiums needed to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and you will see why we need OSHA and other safety laws. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33019838)

      Lord of the Flies, by William Golding comes to mind whenever I hear people bemoaning motorcycle helmet laws as an intolerable intrusion on personal liberty. 100% freedom, just like 100% alcohol content, cannot exist in nature.

      • Eric Konarske

        And yet workers still die, suggesting we need even stronger laws. Which just proves my point. If I have a right to ride a motorcycle (something that could easily get me killed, helmet or not) why don’t I have a right to ride without a helmet? Who gets to decide that it’s OK to kill myself by riding a motorcycle (something inherently very dangerous) but that it’s not OK to kill myself by riding without a helmet. Why is someone else more qualified to make that decision than me? The point you clearly don’t understand is that it’s completely arbitrary for a society to decide that riding a motorcycle is OK, but riding without a helmet is not. And of course, all this ignores the fact that 30,000 people die every year (in the US alone) in auto accidents. Imagine how many of those could have been saved by helmets. Hmmm… maybe it’s time for society to mandate helmets in cars.

        • John B.

          I don’t know how some people manage to survive even one day. The Bible says, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I think that means YOLO, or live for today and don’t worry about tomorrow, but I’m not sure. Clearly, humankind is doomed; it’s only a matter of time.

          Decision making with respect to laws and other complex situations require line drawing, and striking a balance among competing factors (e.g., safety and freedom etc.). This process requires good judgment, and in many cases empirical analysis provides insight as to where the proper balance lies.

          In a complex society like ours black and white solutions (e.g., either ban motorcycles or let us ride them how we see fit!), though simple and attractive to middling minds, rarely strike the optimal balance. Just like in the game Rock Paper Scissors, a strategy that chooses Rock everytime is simple, but clearly not optimal.

          Rather, a solution somewhere in the grey scale produces optimal outcomes (e.g, we can enjoy riding motorcycles and mitigate obvious risks). Very often, a cost/benefit analysis aides in finding the right balance. We compare the burden of a given safety regulation to the benefits conferred.

          To wear a motorcycle helmet is a small burden and the safety benefits are great. To require a child resistant cap on drug bottles costs a few cents, but prevents poisoning deaths, and so on. Elected officials in certain states passed laws that require motorcyclists to wear helmets. In a representative democracy like we have in the U.S., the processes that create laws are not arbitrary. They only seem arbitrary to people unfamiliar with the process.

          • Eric Konarske

            “This process requires good judgment, and in many cases empirical analysis provides insight as to where the proper balance lies.”

            Same logic New York tried to use to ban soda of a certain size. Again, what’s the correct size of soda? Decided by whom? Clearly you’re still not getting it. No matter how you try to spin it, it’s still arbitrary.

            I’ve been riding since I was ten, I raced motorcycles in my twenties, and now in my forties I teach the MSF class. So statistically I have less of a chance of dying on a motorcycle without a helmet than many riders do with one. Yet the law doesn’t take that into account. Arbitrary. Or how about the fact that the law doesn’t consider the difference between half, three-quarter, and full face helmets, yet we know there’s a huge difference in how likely each is to save you in a crash. Arbitrary no matter how you try to spin it.

            Since YOU brought up God, let’s think about how he sees it. He COULD make us all wear helmets and drink tiny sodas and stop riding motorcycles and quit smoking, but he doesn’t. He allows us to make our own decisions.

            Why do you think you or any other man should have and exercise a power that God himself doesn’t? Think of what that says about you and your desire to rule other people’s lives. That terrifies me way more than dying on a motorcycle.

          • John B.

            Lord of the Flies redux!

            Arbitrary means, based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system. If a King who made random pronouncements ruled us our system would be arbitrary. In the American system, you and the rest of us have a voice, and very often our voice influences lawmaking. The CPSC, for example, conducts public hearings in advance of rulemaking when it identifies a public hazard such as cigarette lighters without child protective devices. In short, we do not have an “Arbitrary” system of laws.

            To avoid chaos, a 320 million person society must have laws. There is very little freedom in anarchy. Our laws, are the social contract between the people and the government. As such, the laws come from the people. The American system has produced the most affluent and powerful country in history where people enjoy freedom. As such, our system, though far from perfect, has served us well.

            Neither you nor I agree with every law, but that does not make our system “Arbitrary.” If you don’t like helmet laws join the AMA and work with them to repeal or amend these laws.

        • SteveSweetz

          “The point you clearly don’t understand is that it’s completely arbitrary for a society to decide that riding a motorcycle is OK, but riding without a helmet is not.”

          Not even close to be “arbitrary”; there’s nuance and gradations in the real world that you’re completely ignoring. You’re viewing the world in rather insane extremes where all restrictions on your freedom are equal. The notion that there’s absolutely no difference between requiring you to wear a helmet and banning motorcycles outright is a thought that you alone hold; luckily the representatives we vote for to make our laws aren’t extremist nut jobs that can recognize the several levels of gradations in terms of impact to your personal freedom between those two things.

          We’ve had helmet laws on the books in some states for over 40 years and so far not one of them has ever considered a bill for banning motorcycles completely – again because most legislators are capable of logical thought.