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Old 10-22-2005, 06:15 PM   #51
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Default Re: Motorcycle deaths rise after repeal of Fla. helmet laws.

Mandatory Helmet Use Laws have ridden a pendulum between enactment and repeal in the United States. During this time, motorcyclists have been forced by law to wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle and having a choice to wear one. The United States is one of the few countries that has changed its decision on whether mandatory helmet laws are justified and has presented the ability for different hypotheses the opportunity to be tested under this arena. The continual reversal of the helmet law decision has sifted the truths from the untruths, and only the action of focused special interest groups have managed to convince legislation otherwise. What has remained constant through these times of changing legislation is the fact that society, motorcyclists and their families are safer both financially and physically when helmets are required.

Helmet Laws have not always been mandatory in the United States and currently are not required or encouraged by the federal government. "Before 1967, only three states had motorcycle helmet use laws. The federal government in 1967 began requiring states to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds." (IIHS 2) Helmet laws early on before many modern technological advances were recognized for their benefits and America was staying ahead or on course with other countries in regards to safety laws protecting its citizens. States that wished to build and maintain its highway infrastructure were pressured to pass laws requiring helmets for motorcycle riders. It was a great success to the point that "By 1975, all but three states had mandated helmets for all motorcyclists." (IIHS 2) There is a constant power struggle between states and the federal government derived from the Constitution. It states that powers not explicitly given to the federal government are reserved for the States. History has shown that the United States at different points in time has defined and redefined where these boundaries are. Wishing to ensure that all states maintained helmet use laws, the Department of Transportation in 1976 sought to penalize states that failed to comply with this mandate. Congress, responding to pressure from state legislature and interest groups removed the authority for the Department of Transportation to issue such penalties. "Between 1976 and 1978, 20 states weakened their helmet use laws to apply only to young riders, usually younger than age 18. Seven states repealed helmet use requirements for all motorcyclists." (IIHS 2) The government had made another decision to allow people to decide their fate despite concerns from various public safety groups. It was not until 1991 that the helmet law decision underwent another reversal in its decision. "Congress in the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act created incentives for states to enact helmet use and safety belt use laws." (IIHS 2) Congress utilized its powers to enact laws that the Department of Transportation was not allowed to earlier. These laws lasted for four years when "In the fall of 1995, Congress lifted federal sanctions against states without helmet use lawsÂ…" (IIHS 2) Congress again acquiesced to the pressure of special interest groups despite growing evidence of the safety benefits a helmet provides. "At this time, 19 states and the District of Columbia have helmet laws covering all riders, and 28 states have laws covering some riders, usually those younger than 18." (IIHS 2)

The source of the United States consistent reversal of decisions is the struggle from the aforementioned federal and state separation of powers and the goals of special interest groups who feel that helmet laws infringe too much upon their freedom of choice. Several arguments are brought forth from various groups seeking to keep helmets optional when riding. One argument is that helmets cause additional injuries, particularly to the neck when involved in an accident. At first, it may seem entirely plausible given the mass of the helmet and the expected violence and intensity of an accident. However, reports from investigating this claim disprove this assertion. "Significant spinal injuries occurred in 51 cases (4.4 per cent), and no significant association with helmet use was apparent." (AFP 832) The report was unable to find any conclusive evidence that this claim is true and reduces it to an urban legend. The article went on to say "Â…that the use of motorcycle helmets reduces head injuries without an increase in the occurrence of spinal injuries in motorcycle trauma victims." (AFP 832) Another frequently heard claim is that data is poorly collected, biased and unreliable. Dr. Richard Perkins stated that data collected in a report on increased deaths from helmet law repeals is effectively inadmissible by saying "The method of verification reported provides little assurance in my view, because it demonstrates not that the comparison of each repeal state to its group of comparison states is unbiased, but that typical comparisons within each group of comparison states fall within an expected interval." (Perkins 294) A study of the helmet law repeal in Florida disproves PerkinsÂ’ assertion. "The interrupted time series analysis estimates a 48.6 per cent increase in motorcycle occupant deaths the year after the law change." (Muller 557) FloridaÂ’s results are not atypical of what other states or other countries experience, but are significant because of the shear volume of accidents that they experience. "The state of Florida is of interest because it accounts for 9 per cent of all motorcycle deaths in the United States." (Muller 556) FloridaÂ’s size of motorcycle traffic and accidents allows it to be cast in the limelight in terms of statistical studies. Dr. Perkins also argues another commonplace of anti-helmet law advocates, personal freedom and the pleasure associated with it. "That these intangibles are important to the public is demonstrated by the fact that rodeo contestants and rock climbers are not required by law to wear crash helmetsÂ…" (Perkins 294) What is missed by Perkins is that the locations that these various activities are practiced in vary by who shares the same space. When a rodeo contestant falls off, nobody is in the arena that is not aware of the dangers involved or wants to be there on their own accord. When a rock climber falls, there is nobody below or above him who is there traveling to the grocery store. All participants are consciously aware of everybody else involved and are there for their own recreation. On the other hand, motorcyclists share the road with the public and the public is responsible for the motorcyclists well being should an accident occur. In Massachusetts in 1972, a federal court stated:

The public has an interest in minimizing the resources directly involved. From the moment of injury, society picks the person up off the highway; delivers him to a municipal hospital and municipal doctors, provides him with unemployment compensation if, after recovery, he cannot replace his lost job; and, if the injury causes permanent disability, may assume responsibility for his and his familyÂ’s subsistence. We do not understand a state of mind that permits plaintiff to think that only he himself is concerned. (IIHS 3)

Here, the judicial system explains that there is more at stake than just somebodyÂ’s personal freedom. Society as a whole must take part in the responsibility of its citizensÂ’ welfare and any laws that can reduce the burden without infringing on a significant amount of freedom should be viewed as justified. Such costs and requirements are acceptable in other areas of our lives. Seat belts are now required for motorist as the cost of infringing on somebodyÂ’s personal freedom to choose not to wear a seatbelt does not outweigh the cost that society must bear from additional injuries sustained. Public education is mandatory until the age of 18. The cost of an uneducated society outweighs the cost of infringing on somebodyÂ’s personal freedom.

The reasons for wearing a helmet are very apparent and have been justified and validated time after time. Some lesser known benefits of helmet laws are not always in the salvo of helmet law proponents. First, helmet laws reduce the chance of bike theft. "After Texas enacted its universal helmet law, motorcycle thefts in 19 Texas cities decreased 44 percent from 1988 to 1990, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety" (IIHS 2) These trends are not limited to the United States, proving this tertiary benefit. "In London, motorcycle thefts fell 24 per cent after Great Britain enacted a helmet law in 1973. The Netherlands saw a 36 per cent drop in 1975 when its law was enacted. And, in former West Germany, where on-the-spot fines were introduced in 1980, motorcycle thefts dropped more than 60 per cent." (IIHS 2) Helmet laws keep those that do not own motorcycles from illegally acquiring one unless an investment is made in a helmet. The percentages suggest that many thieves are unwilling to make this investment.

Insurance costs and costs passed on to taxpayers for injuries to motorcyclists are reduced when helmets are worn. A California study displays just how much is saved from riders wearing helmets after it enacted its helmet law in 1992, "The rate of motorcyclists hospitalized for head injuries decreased by 48 per cent in 1993 compared with 1991, and total costs for patients with head injuries decreased by $20.5 million during this period." (IIHS 3) Clearly, helmets save money spent by taxpayers and insurance payers alike. "In Seattle, 63 per cent of trauma care for injured motorcyclists in 1985 was paid by public funds. In Sacramento, public funds paid 82 per cent of the costs to treat orthopedic injuries sustained by motorcyclists in 1980-1983." (IIHS 3) Whether one pays for insurance or not, the burden is carried by society. Further financial loss stems from many states adopting a seatbelt defense for riders that now choose not to wear helmets. In Warfel v. Cheney the court stated that the choice not to wear a helmet can be used to mitigate damages. "The court held that the issue is whether a plaintiff measurably contributed to his own injuries by failing to meet his obligation to conduct himself in a reasonable manner." (Dennis 22) While many will see that while cars come equipped with seatbelts and motorcycles do not, the courts have disagreed with this saying, "The Warfel courtÂ…did not hold that a safety device must be within armÂ’s length before oneÂ’s failure to employ it can be argued to be fault." (Dennis 22) ParentÂ’s are required to put their children in safety seats and if they fail to do so, can be held liable.

Clearly, the reduction in monetary costs is evident, but what of the physical costs born of the right to wear helmets? While many will argue over who should be responsible for an accident, who is at fault and how to avoid it, helmets address the concern of how to reduce damages when accidents do happen. The evidence that supports the efficacy of helmets to suppress injuries is overwhelming. A report performed on the Taiwanese helmet laws introduced in 1997 confirms that "Both international and national epidemiologic surveys have reported that the vast majority of serious or fatal motorcycle related injuries involve the head." (Chiu 793) When the helmet law was passed and enforced, the report states that "The number of hospitalized patients who died decreased by 33.2 per cent and the number with severe disabilities decreased by 63.8 per cent." (Chiu 794) The Motorcycle Safety Foundation confirms this as well saying "Â…without a helmet you are five times more likely to have serious head injuries than a helmeted rider." (Rauba 42) Helmeted riders have a better chance of surviving an accident without head trauma and if there is damage, there is a higher chance of avoiding serious injury. David Thom, director of the University of Southern CaliforniaÂ’s Head Protection Research Laboratory confirms this, "Most of the time when people wear a helmet, fall off a motorcycle, and bonk their head on the ground, they donÂ’t have any injuries." (qtd. in Rauba 41) Helmets reduce the downtime, the psychological trauma experienced from injuries and allow the victim to return to their lives quicker and in better shape than those who do not wear helmets.

Helmet laws have faced periods of uncertainty in the United States, which is typically a leader in safety and regulation for consumers and society as a whole. While this time has provided an opportunity to test both sidesÂ’ hypothesis, only the proponentsÂ’ have formed solid theories. These laws are a must for a society that accepts responsibility for those who put themselves into harms way. Reducing the chance of bike theft, eliminating the potential for mitigation of compensatory damages and reducing the chance of head trauma are all reasons motorcyclists should wear helmets. Reducing the prices paid for insurance and taxes are the reasons society should embrace helmet laws. Every person whether they ride or not only stands to gain from the implementation of mandatory helmet use laws. Dr. Susan Baker effectively writes this by saying "It was as if scientists, having found a successful treatment for a disease, were impelled to further prove its efficacy by stopping the treatment and allowing the disease to recur." (Baker 573) It is time for us to treat the disease.

Addendum -- Sorry for the grammatical mistakes. I'm aware many exist, but got bored/lazy with corrections. Sources available upon request.
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Old 10-22-2005, 07:17 PM   #52
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Default It's a baby boomer GPTB thing

Excellent post. I must confess I never heard the bike theft argument. Makes sense. I don't know if the anti-helmet law advocates have been to a rodeo lately(Check it out on OLN TV) but more contestants are wearing helmets than ever before. Rock climbers as well. Being from the Gen X I wear a helmet for bicycling, roller blading, skiing etc. I sometimes think the antihelmet thing is the baby boomers (Gray Pony Tail Botherhood GPTB) last hurrah against the establishment...
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Old 10-24-2005, 08:48 AM   #53
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Default Re: Motorcycle deaths rise after repeal of Fla. helmet laws.

I don't understand why it is the helmetless rider's problem for not having insurance.

Seems to me that the problem lies in congress making government take on the responsibility of funding the medically underinsured.

Even then, helmetless motorcyclists are far down the list of cost overruns. Old people do geometrically more damage to the taxpayer than motorcyclists.

People aren't failing to take responsibility for their actions. They never were. They take advantage of whatever happens to be there. What happened is that politicians have foisted responsibility on those that never asked for it.
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Old 10-24-2005, 01:14 PM   #54
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Default Re: Motorcycle deaths rise after repeal of Fla. helmet laws.

WeÂ’ve hammered this one for a long time now, but somehow IÂ’ve never got around to this storyÂ….

Back in the sixties, I was legally riding motorcycles on Florida public roads when I was 14 years old with nothing in my pocket but a learnerÂ’s permit. A permit that I got by taking a written test that included NOTHING about motorcycles. The state of Florida was, however, interested enough in my safety to require me to wear a helmet.

Fast-forward 6 years to San Diego. My wife decides to get her m/c license so she can ride my little Honda to college while IÂ’m out defending our sea lanes from the communist threat. She takes a motorcycle-specific written test to get her m/c learnerÂ’s permit, then we spend lotsa;Â’ time getting her skills up to the point where she can pass the comprehensive CHP m/c riding test. Once you get your license, you need never again put on a helmet.

WhatÂ’s the moral to this story? Chicks dig sailors with motorcycles!

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Old 10-25-2005, 01:26 PM   #55
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Default Re: Motorcycle deaths rise after repeal of Fla. helmet laws.

I wasn't there, and I have never rode with the guy. What I do know the time it happened, early a.m., and the place, a rural hilly highway. I don't disagree with you, but I can see how it happened. Many small factors adding up to one big one. In the end he may have been an idiot, but the fact that he was wearing an open face helmet makes him a dead one.
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Old 10-25-2005, 01:42 PM   #56
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Default Re: Motorcycle deaths rise after repeal of Fla. helmet laws.

"A California study displays just how much is saved from riders
wearing helmets after it enacted its helmet law in 1992,
"Therate of motorcyclists hospitalized for head injuries
decreased by 48 per cent in 1993 compared with 1991, and total
costs for patients with head injuries decreased by $20.5 million
during this period." (IIHS 3) Clearly, helmets save money
spent by taxpayers and insurance payers alike."

No one seems to be able or willing to put statistics in the light of miles ridden.
Without that information the statistics cannot provide a valid conclusion in the
area of actual costs from helmet choice. If we completely ban
motorcycles societal costs "would" be shown to go down.So what? If
we ban cars societal costs will plummet. Big deal. If you save $20
million by greatly reducing the motorcycle miles ridden in CA in
1993 vs 1991 you have saved money and slaughtered riding

Imagine that a law was passed that required all cars to have full
roll cages with 5 point restraints, fire suits, and helmets for all
occupants, and of course an impossible to disable 35 mph governor
of top speed. Since we are sure that this would reduce highway
fatalities and injuries saving billions of tax payer dollars do you
think auto users are going to back such a proposal? NOT very
likely! So even with the savings of real sums of money, way
greater than any helmet law could ever achieve, those allowed to
vote will say NO. Me thinks it is not about the money.

All this talk of saving taxpayers money would be entertaining if many of the facts weren't missing.
Motorcycles add value to living, IMHO,
therefore greatly reducing miles ridden (by adding more and more
requirements toward the direction of banning) to save some tax
dollars is not necessarily a positive direction. If society
wants to save money maybe we could address some really big road use
issue$. Last premium period my single motorcycle, with excellent
coverage, saw MORE than 50% of the total premium
being paid for Uninsured and Under-insured motorists! I AM paying
for the deadbeats out there whether they ride bikes or other
vehicles. But we are busy discussing whether citizens should have
choice (helmets) where the economic impact is but a small fraction
of a serious road use issue. I am hard pressed to see the value
received by an uninsured motorist other than more money for them to
spend stolen directly from those of us that pay for top tier
insurance. At least motorcycling without a helmet produces some
enjoyment and if the person has all the resources in place to
protect society from ALL the costs of a severe injury/death WE
still really want to say NO you may not ride sans helmet. Mighty high horse we
find ourselves on IMHO. Would the government body that orchestrates
such laws be known as the Department of Pre-Crime?

Whom is the burden to society when an uninsured motorist plows a
helmet-less rider that is riding within the laws of the road and
vegetable-zises him or her. I suspect that the cost is added to the
"helmet free" rider when compiling statistics. The
usage of this data is fraught with potentially inaccurate assumptions.
There is no lack of amateurs and professionals to give us their opinion
that it is "obvious" society cannot nor should not bear the burden of
these riders with helmet choice.

1.) Wasted government pork spending dwarfs the uninsured motorist

2.) Uninsured motorists costs dwarf helmet choice issues costs
(EVEN without the critical facts as to costs saved per mile ridden
WITH mandatory helmet laws).

My understanding of the famous "The Hurt Report" is that it
indicated that three fourths of the motorcycle accidents studied
involved another vehicle, most often a passenger auto. In
two-thirds of the multiple vehicle accidents the other vehicle
violated the motorcycle right-of-way. If my math serves me (.75 x
.66) FIFTY PERCENT of the accidents studied were the other
vehicle's fault!! Helmet or not that is going to cost society a
huge chunk of motorcycle accident related costs. Helmet choice is a
red herring when other motorists cannot safely use the roads
without running into a motorcycle! (Yes, the report is old, 1981,
and a new study is way overdue).

As with many things in the US and elsewhere we have tons of data
but we are weak on facts and accurate conclusions. Looking at the
big picture, helmet choice is a tiny $money$ problem that gets much
political attention.

"Dr. Susan Baker effectively writes this by saying "It was
as if scientists, having found a successful treatment for a
disease, were impelled to further prove its efficacy by stopping
the treatment and allowing the disease to recur." (Baker
It is time for us to treat the disease."

THE disease is UNINSURED motorists (the largest number of uninsured
on the roads are surely represented by passenger autos). The cure, in this case
is "pay at the pump" or some other low
intrusion method of assisting road users in paying for the
financial harm they are likely to do others and society. But the
solution typically put forth by the "Bakers" in the safety world regarding helmet laws would be
comparable to, "alcohol use is the disease, prohibition is
the cure." The disease is not clearly defined and the benefits to society are not measurable or sorely lacking.

Ride smart, cuz a huge portion of other road users are uninsured
and mostly unqualified to be on the roads. AND their brilliant idea
for solving the hazard they present is to force you to wear a
helmet!?! Part of the reason I wear head to toe safety gear,
including a HAT, and have uninsured insurance up the wazoo is
because our society has chosen to NOT protect me from the other
irresponsible guy. I've never seen a news headline like,
"Helmet-less rider slaughters passengers in SUV due to not
wearing a helmet." Right. Bald heads are a deadly risk to
other road users.

Yep, the correct choice is obvious, but unfortunately, way too few
in the populace and many of my fellow riders don't get it. It is
similar to the "I don't ride dirt (or fill in the blank) so
why should I care if they ban dirt riding." mentality. You will my
friend, you surely will. Many in the public see no reason that
motorcycles should be on the roads and helmet laws are one way we
can support their belief that two wheels are inherently dangerous
and should be banned from the roads in more enlightened
societies. You are not trading freedom for safety you are trading
it for the illusion of safety and very few dollars saved. The
driving killers are still out there, many with little to no
insurance, while many spin their wheels tilting at
dollar-saving-windmills referred to as mandatory helmet laws.

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Old 10-28-2005, 05:29 PM   #57
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Default Re: Motorcycle deaths rise after repeal of Fla. helmet laws.


I wanted to make sure your post wasn't a half joke type of thing before I replied to it. Sometimes I miss the sarcasm or humor when they come across the web and didn't want to have a field day on something that was meant to be taken light hearted.
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Old 11-04-2005, 10:20 AM   #58
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Default Helmet laws - not really about saving lives and money

Bradl3y, Not joking. "The Hurt Report" and most of the other info I posted is accurate, best I can tell. Enjoy your field day.

We lose more lives in 3 weeks of US Motor Vehicle Crashes (hint: they aren't all helmet-less riders) than 31 months of an Iraq War. News has reported 2,000 US lost in the Iraq War. The US Motor Vehicle Fatalities average for 3 weeks during 2003 and 2004 was 2,213. The US lost (killed or MIA) 58,226 in the Vietnam conflict (http://www.vietnam-war.info/casualties/). In 2003 and 2004 we lost 76,730 lives in the US due to Motor Vehicle Crashes (http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/). Motor vehicles in the US are DEADLY! Remedies are obvious (and some, myself included, would view as ridiculous – see previous post regarding over-the-top car safety options).

Mandatory motorcycle helmet laws have minimal impact on saving money or lives. (This is without even asking about the number of marginal rider fatalities that helmet laws have now prevented and turned the "uninsured" [aren't all riders?] helmeted rider into a vegetable which presumably cost the state lots of money) Why does the subject merit high levels of political attention? The "other" driver appears to have been causing 50% of motorcycle accidents (The Hurt Report). How are helmet laws going to improve the free-pass for slaughter that others are allowed to perpetrate on motorcyclists (pedestrians, and bicyclists)? 34,816 of US fatalities in motor vehicle crashes in year 2003 were NOT motorcyclists. How many of those lives could have been saved with mandatory helmet laws forced on enclosed vehicle occupants? No one goes there. That political dog won't hunt. Motorcycle helmet laws are NOT really about saving "lives or money". If it were all about "saving" lives and money we would find a likely savings of 1000% with harsh safety mandates on enclosed vehicles as they generate about 10 times more fatalities each year (included an estimated 50% of all motorcycle fatalities). That begs the question, if it is obviously NOT about lives or money saved, what are mandatory motorcycle helmet laws about? With the likelihood of 50% of the fatalities on motorcycles being produced by the other driver PERHAPS mandatory helmet laws are to salve the conscience of the motorcycle killing drivers out there. Or, maybe it is just a power trip to shove someone's ideal world down the throat of everyone doing a similar activity. Maybe a spot of jealousy that the other rider has his/her hair blowing in the breeze while I am smart enough not to do the same. I don't know. I wear a helmet 99.9999% of the time and almost always have head to toe safety gear (yes, even when it is only 109F in California or Arizona). I wave at the helmet-less same as the helmeted riders. I recommend safety gear to all. I just don't presume to know how to run their lives like so many of my peers.

The road to banning motorcycles is/will be littered with feel good ideas. Let's see, we have mandatory helmet laws, mandatory air bags, mandatory roll cages, mandatory ABS, mandatory "training wheels", mandatory daylight-hours-only-riding, mandatory pollution-free bikes, mandatory minimum mileage, mandatory speed limiting governors. Don't laugh. Some that read these posts are saying, "hey, several of those ideas aren't so bad." Someone will always draw a more restrictive line in the sand than those just being "reasonable" and supporting mandatory helmet laws for whatever reason. My request is that we all try to do no harm to the sport many of us love and enjoy. The mythical image of the helmet-less rider costing society a fortune is a fantasy, don't support it or them that would ban our sport. Support helmet choice.
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