Wear a Helmet when riding your Motorcycle – Don’t be like Ben

Common Myths About Motorcycle Helmets
and Motorcycle Helmet Laws (from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). something to think about while Ben Roethlisberger recovers from his helmetless mototcycle accident.

Myth—Helmets cause neck or spinal cord injuries
Fact—Research has proven this untrue. Five studies reviewed by the GAO all reported a higher incidence of severe neck injuries for unhelmeted riders. An Illinois study found that helmets decrease the number of significant spinal injuries.

Myth—Helmets impair hearing and sight
Fact—”The helmet affects my peripheral vision” and “I can’t hear as well” are two common myths neither of which is supported with scientific data. Normal peripheral vision is between 200° and 220°. Federal safety standards require that helmets provide 210° of vision. Over 90 percent of crashes happen within a range of 160° (with the majority of the remainder occurring in rear-end collisions), so it’s clear that helmets do not affect peripheral vision or contribute to crashes. Hearing is not affected either. Helmets reduce the loudness of noises, but do not affect the rider’s ability to distinguish between sounds. The University of Southern California conducted 900 on-scene, in-depth investigations of motorcycle crash scenes, and could not uncover a single case in which a rider could not detect a critical traffic sound. Some studies indicate that helmets are useful in reducing wind noise and protecting hearing.

Myth—Motorcycle helmet laws are unconstitutional
Fact—The highest courts in more than 25 states have held motorcycle helmet laws to be constitutional. The Massachusetts motorcycle helmet law was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Myth—Motorcycle helmets laws violate individual rights.
Fact—All highway safety laws require individuals to act in specific ways: stop at stop signs, yield to pedestrians, etc. However, courts have consistently recognized that helmet laws do not violate the right to privacy and other due process provisions. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of other traffic laws, like driving on the right side of the highway, buckling a safety belt, using a child safety seat, not driving while impaired, and obeying traffic signals is readily accepted, because all motorists recognize that failure to obey these laws results in serious risk to themselves and others. Motorcycle helmet laws are no different.

Myth—Age-specific motorcycle helmet laws are effective
Fact—Statistics tell us that the helmet use rate in states with age-specific helmet laws is usually the same as having no law at all. Currently 23 states have a law requiring helmet use for a specific portion of the population, usually those under 18 years of age. These laws only complicate the law enforcement community’s job, not make it easier. It’s hard to judge a person’s age when he or she is moving.

Myth—States will no longer lose federal funds if motorcycle helmet laws are repealed. This is the time to repeal helmet laws without penalty.
Fact—In attempts to repeal or weaken helmet laws, helmet laws opponents imply that the Federal Government penalized states without motorcycle helmet laws through a loss of highway construction funds until the repeal of Section 153 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in December 1995. This is not true. From 1992 to 1995, as part of an incentive package for states to pass motorcycle helmet laws covering all riders, Section 153 provided for the transfer of Federal funds from highway construction accounts to highway safety accounts in states not having all-rider helmet laws. The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 repealed this provision.

Myth—Statistics show that fatality rates are lower in states without helmet laws.
Fact—Comparisons should be across years within the same state rather than across states in the same year. This is because states differ significantly on a number of factors, such as weather, length of riding season, population density, urban versus rural roads. The real issue is what happens within a state after a helmet law is adopted or repealed.

Myth—Motorcycles are a small percentage of registered vehicles, thus motorcycle crashes represent a minuscule burden to society.
Fact—Motorcycles are only 2 percent of the registered vehicles nationally, but motorcyclist fatalities are 5 percent of traffic fatalities each year. Motorcyclists account for over 2,100 fatalities and 56,000 injuries. The fatality rate per mile traveled for motorcyclists is 16 times that of car occupants, and the injury rate is about 4 times that of car occupants.

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4 thoughts on “Wear a Helmet when riding your Motorcycle – Don’t be like Ben

  1. Fact—All highway safety laws require individuals to act in specific ways: stop at stop signs, yield to pedestrians, etc. However, courts have consistently recognized that helmet laws do not violate the right to privacy and other due process provisions. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of other traffic laws, like driving on the right side of the highway, buckling a safety belt, using a child safety seat, not driving while impaired, and obeying traffic signals is readily accepted, because all motorists recognize that failure to obey these laws results in serious risk to themselves and others. Motorcycle helmet laws are no different.

    No different? You’re forgetting that last ‘and others’ part! Helmets are there for the rider’s protection, and the rider’s protection only. Whether or not he wears a helmet has no effect whatsoever on other drivers, and so it should be his choice whether or not to use one.

    Personally, I’d rather die than be permanently crippled from a neck injury–if my crash is bad enough to kill me without a helmet, I’m not going to be walking ever again anyway.

  2. That seems to be a fairly idiotic way to reason not wearing a helmet.

    Then again, people are idiots and idiots need to be protected from themselfs hence the need more helmet laws.

    I’ve had a couple of crashes over the years. All of them with the exception of one I walked away from without much serious injury. Had I not been wearing a helmet I can say with reasonable certainity that I would not be sitting here typing this now.

    One of my helmets cracked and was ground down well into the foam portion inside the helmet. If that were only my head I would have left a shade of red, along with bone fragments and brain tissue on the road.

    The way I see it though, trying to talk someone into wearing a helmet while riding is about the same as arguing with a brick wall.

    This issue goes a long way to proving Darwin’s theorys. As well as geting a number of people Darwin awards!!

  3. Even though the helmet laws are being uphelp as constitutional doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem with the laws. When you ask any state that has a helmet law on how to 100% comply with the law – they say “where a helmet”. Being laws are written to be clear – the question is what is a helmet that the law requires. Read the words, don’t make assumptions, and you will find that most states require you to wear a helmet the meets or exceeds FMVSS 218 (the only manufacture performance standard a comsumer held responsible to comply with). Example – last month over 500k cars had a recall for the headlights not meeting the FMVSS – I bet not one car was pulled over and the driver given a ticket and told they could not drive off until proper headlights wear installed. This is how the helmet law is being enforced. I buy a labled-manufactured certified (to meet FMVSS218) helmet witha DOT sticker- and get pulled over for not wearing a DOT approved helmet (no such thing-DOT or NHTSA do not approve any motor vehicle equipment). No recall on my helmet- found guilty on the side of the road and threatend arrest if I drive off without a helmet he approves. Go to court- can’t even get home…….

  4. I am sure the motorcycle helmet laws debate will continue for years no matter what the facts are. The simple truth is that a few things need to be done;
    1. Clarify helmet laws across the board. If we are going to have them then they need to be clear enough for a normal person to understand completely what the law states
    2. Give us comfortable, safe helmets that meet or exceed the required standards.

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