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Old 08-05-2007, 06:51 PM   #1
Kenneth_Moore
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Default Helmet Laws Suck

Suggesting that riding without a helmet is a good idea is, in most circles, about as popular as proposing a “Crack for Kids” program at the local School Board meeting. People get pretty agitated, and tend to think you’re out to undermine the very foundation of society. Regardless of that, I think riding without a helmet can be worth the risk, and I want to say so. If your mind is made up, you might as well skip the rest of this rant and move on. If you want to talk about it, I’d enjoy hearing your opinions.

I literally grew up wearing helmets. They were mandatory in Florida long before I could ride a motorcycle, legally or otherwise. The first bike I rode was a Honda 150 back in 1968; I used to borrow it from a friend and ride it around the neighborhood at the age of 12. I always borrowed the guy’s helmet too. About 4 years later I got my first tickets on two wheels when I borrowed a guy’s moped and rode it down a dirt road at a park. The cop decided to teach me a lesson and wrote me for no helmet, no license plate, no turn signals, and no registration. That incident clearly set the stage for my future relationship with the Florida DMV, but that’s another rant.

Not long after that incident, I got my first real bike, a Yamaha RD-350 in black and orange. The guy I bought it from gave me the standard helmet of the day, open front with the three snaps across the top to secure a face shield. I think it was purple with metal flake. I bought this goofy bubble-shaped hard plastic shield in yellow, which for some reason I thought was really cool. Not long after that, I got to borrow my friends Bell full-face helmet (back in those days Bell was synonymous with full-faced helmets, at least with the guys I hung out with) and from that point on, that’s what I wore. Eventually I settled on Shoei, and always got white ones to try to keep the heat down. And, in fact, when I do wear a helmet these days, that’s what I still wear.

As the years went by, I was peripherally aware of ABATE, the nationwide anti-helmet law organization. Originally their initials stood for “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments,” but once the 70’s were over they toned it down to “American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.” Or something like that depending on what state you're in. They had fund raising events, lobbied the Legislature and Governor, and had an annual ride to Tallahassee to try to get the helmet law repealed, or at least modified. Back in the summer of 2000, they finally succeeded. The law wasn’t repealed, but it was changed to allow riders over 21 to ride without a helmet as long as they had a special $10,000 medical insurance policy to cover the cost of stuffing their brains back in their heads after an accident. Two interesting notes here: nobody could find any insurance company that offered this policy, and nobody could clearly explain what the heck this caveat really meant, so de-facto, the clause was meaningless. The other interesting side note is ABATE. Not long after the law was passed, I met a member handing out flyers for another fund raiser at one of the local motorcycle parts stores. When I asked what the heck they were collecting money for since they’d won, she looked confused and said: “well, they may change their minds!” Frankly, I think she was simply proving the “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” which essentially states that no matter what an organization is formed for initially; eventually its purpose becomes its own continuation, growth, and the aggrandizement of its leadership.

When the new law was announced, I said to myself and others that I’d never ride without a helmet. I reasoned that it would be pointlessly risky, and I didn’t want to end up a vegetable, disfigured, or dead. But it didn’t take too long before “it” happened. I tasted the forbidden fruit. I’ve forgotten exactly when, where, or why I wound up riding without a helmet, but I did. I loved it. I didn't want to wear a helmet any more.

I decided to try a small helmet instead of a full-face one to see if I could get the same feeling I had with no helmet. It was better, but still not the same. The only downside I found was the rain. I cannot ride without a helmet and face shield in the rain, it just hurts too much. I’ve always worn earplugs when I ride, so the wind noise without a helmet is manageable.

I don’t always ride without a helmet. In addition to rainy conditions, I usually wear a helmet during commuting hours, long trips at high speeds, and when it’s cold out. But last night I took a ride under the stars without, and I will say this: for me, that ride without the helmet was far more enjoyable than it would have been with. I can’t explain it, any more than I can explain to a cager why I take the risks of riding a motorcycle at all, versus just getting in the car. And, as I rode along last night, I decided to write this and share my thoughts.

So, here it is: I suggest that if you ever get the chance, take off your helmet and give it a try. If you’ve never done it, you might be surprised. And if you splatter your brains all over the highway, don’t blame me. It is, after all, just a suggestion. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, “a zest for living requires a willingness to die.”

PS: I suspect my fun will end soon. I can’t imagine this society of ours allowing this type of individual choice for too much longer. Frankly, I was stunned when the law was repealed. I'm sure the Feds will link mandatory helmet laws to highway funding or something.
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Old 08-05-2007, 07:27 PM   #2
seruzawa
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You are SO asking for it.
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Old 08-05-2007, 07:33 PM   #3
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I've ridden with and without a helmet. In AZ I never wore a helmet. I felt it was just too damn hot and I enjoyed the open air.

I moved to PA and started wearing a helmet. I don't have to, but I CHOOSE to. PA doesn't have mandatory helmet laws.

Why do I wear one now? Not sure. Probably for a few reasons. One being I'm not single anymore and my actions affect the people around me. I have plenty of insurance so I wouldn't be a "tax burden", but I have a house payment that requires both of use to be working among other things. If I whack my head and can only drool for a living it would effectively turn my wife's world to crap. So I wear a helmet and protective gear every time to decrease my chances of severe injuries. Least I can do, really.

One of the things I've found from wearing a helmet is that it greatly reduces fatigue. My face doesn't feel as beaten up and wind burned after a day of riding. But there is something about going helmetless. You tend to grin more when accelerating and you feel the speed hitting your face.

As far as mandatory helmet laws go; I am against them and will always be against them. There is no stat, study, survey, or claim that will ever change my mind.

Don't care about the supposed tax burden. If you want tax relief than focus on an efficiently running government.
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Old 08-05-2007, 07:35 PM   #4
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I don't know. I think most of the hardcore helmet Nazis left. They don't like freedom of choice and they don't like forum change.
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Old 08-05-2007, 08:44 PM   #5
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Default We'll see.

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Originally Posted by BrowningBAR View Post
I don't know. I think most of the hardcore helmet Nazis left. They don't like freedom of choice and they don't like forum change.
Myself, I almost always wear a helmet and I won't let a passenger ride without one. About the only time I ride without is on my IT175 on my cabin property in the mountains and sometimes down to the nearest town (rural road all the way) for odds and ends. I'm just putting easily along when I do that at about 30mph.

In the past I rode extensively without a helmet and dumped hard twice without hurting my head. I've still got the pin in my ankle to prove it.

So, is it stupid to ride without a helmet? Usually. But then some might say it's stupid to ride at all....in fact most people think so. So what? This parsing the pros and cons of helmets is pointless because some people are safe without one and some people are a menace to themselves no matter how much gear they wear.

Oh and by the way, no matter how many safety restrictions we implement your insurance rates and taxes for health costs are never ever ever going to go down.
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Old 08-05-2007, 09:02 PM   #6
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I always wear a helmet. Period. In places like Arizona and Nevada, it's actually cooler to wear a helmet than it is to ride without it once the temp gets up over 100, so I don't buy the "it's too hot" claim.

But then I'm a stickler that way.
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Old 08-05-2007, 09:48 PM   #7
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Whoa, there. It wasn't a "claim". I said I "felt" it was too hot. I didn't say it was a scientific fact. So there was nothing there for you to "buy".

Fact is if you don't want to wear a helmet I couldn't care. Rode without and I ride with one now. I've seen and heard people die and get f'ed up with a helmet and I've seen and heard people make it out without one.

It shouldn't be mandatory. Period.

The tax burden claim is bulsh!t and insurance companies will use something else to justify rate increases.

Last edited by BrowningBAR : 08-05-2007 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 08-05-2007, 09:54 PM   #8
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The more people b!tch about wanting helmet laws to be mandatory the more I want to ride without one.

Right now I have a strong need to pick up smoking, drive a big ass car, and have a strict diet that contains only meat from only the cutest looking animals.
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Old 08-06-2007, 04:47 AM   #9
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Default Well Said

Quote:
Originally Posted by seruzawa View Post
So, is it stupid to ride without a helmet? Usually. But then some might say it's stupid to ride at all....in fact most people think so. So what?
I always thought the ABATE arguments about breaking your neck with helmets etc. were total bullcrap. I'd never argue the "safety factor."
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Old 08-06-2007, 06:20 AM   #10
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I think people should have the freedom to decide whether they use helmet or not. I believe in natural selection. In darwinic sense.

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