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A number of states have enacted helmet laws and then repealed them. In every case, no exceptions, the death rate has declined by 20-40% in the first year after enactment, and the death rates have gone up by equally impressive numbers in the year after repeal of helmet laws. Again, there have been no exceptions. Why doesn't your web page post this imformation. If you are really concerned about the freedom to choose, shouldn't you be helping people make intelligent decisions with all the information available?
Phil Brewer, MD
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Absolutely. If you can provide me with this info, I'll post it absolutely. One thing that we've heard here in CA since our helmet law was past is that, the helmet law definitely works because "accidents" and deaths are down.
First off, helmets don't prevent accidents. But it is true that accidents are down. Why? Well because riding is WAY down. Before the helmet law, there were 700,000 registered bikes here. Today? Today, there are around 400,000. I think a tad less. It was last year, I haven't asked the DMV this year yet. That is a HUGE drop in ridership. And of those riding, it is "estimated" that we ride less than we did.
Obviously, less bikers riding less often = less accidents and therefore less injury and deaths.
But the politicians and insurance companies don't mention this. Just that since the helmet law, deaths are down. The truth is, that the all important RATIO of deaths to accidents is about the same. And in some cases slightly higher in helmet law states. Like the diff between 2.5% and 2.6%, which is statistically negligible.
But if helmets are such a panacea, then the ratio should be much lower, forgetting the gross numbers which are extremely misleading of and by themselves.
Bottomline is no one has great stats or studies on this these days. Those that want to keep their agenda quote the first and most expedient numbers that come along.
So yeah.. I bet you are correct that death rates have gone done 20 - 40%, But can you tell me about the corresponding number of riders on the road and if they are riding more or less often.
In the meantime, lets say I'm right and you're wrong. And that the numbers being toted, death rates alone, have lulled everyone into thinking helmets are without doubt a good thing. If you are wrong and there are unknowing riders experiencing significant neck injury and paralysis, along with those that have been truly helped by there helmets, then haven't we done a terrible thing by not quoting the right numbers that tell what the effect of a helmet is on a body in motion?
This is what we need to know.
By all means, if you can back up your figures. I'll print them. If your figures are just death rates with no correlation to ridership, and this out of context death rate numbers are being used to confuse and convince the public... well, you better believe I'll post that too and anyone's name we can find that are using such numbers to the public's detriment.
I want the truth, yes I can handle it [grins], either way. If helmets are great with little to no downside, I'll be the first to publicize it.
I'm out of town all week, leaving in a few hours, and off line, so if you write back, I won't see it until 10/21.
Thanks for writing. I really appreciate it and hope you appreciate that I am really looking for the truth and am not just a scofflaw that wishes to ride helmetless no matter what.
All the Best,
Very complete site - congratulations.
I'm working with the CAPM here in Quebec and helmet issues and I'm wondering if you can help with one issue in particular.
How do helmet repeal groups generally deal with the related seat belt issue. Must they obligatorily be against mandatory seatbelt use on principle if they are against mandatory helmet use?
Some say the seatbelt issue is not of our concern and therefore they don't need to address it. Some say that seatbelts, unlike helmets, are not a piece of clothing or apparel - rather they are a safety device which does not affect comfort or pleasure - so it's different. As well, there's little doubt as to the value of seatbelts, but there is doubt as to the value of helmets - although certainly there's little doubt in my mind that if you knew for sure that an accident was certain, just about everyone would put on a helmet.
Do you have other considerations that would help one maintain integrity & consistency in dealing with these arguments?
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I can't speak for other groups. In general it seems the helmet groups don't deal with seat belts.
Strategically this makes sense since why would a bike rights group lobby for a non-(directly)-related issue. Since helmet laws are about freedom of choice, if we went after seat belts under the overarching banner of "freedom of choice" then we could go after all things "not free" which would totally dilute the cause.
More importantly though... seat belts laws are supported by tons of data on scientific studies over many years of study by many labs, groups and organizations. Not so with helmets. As a result we know the effects of a seat belt on a body in motion. Not so with helmets simply because you can't simulate a bike crash with a test crash dummy, like you can a car crash. Or at least it's not been done and studied.
So we don't really know scientifically, like with seat belts, what happens after a crash and before a helmeted body hits.
What we do have are studies based on accident reports and conjecture. the data is worlds a part. There appears to be BOTH safety benefits and hazzards from helmet use based on real world observation, but this is not a scientific study, just random reports collected in various ways. Nothing scientfic.
We need reliable scientific info about the effect of a helmet on a body in motion. And until such time, and until it can be proven that helmets truly provide safety benefits and little to no safety hazard, then... helmets should not be mandated for wear and should be a matter of choice for the rider.
Read our site on Stats and Studies, in particular Dr. Goldstein's research into helmets causing neck injury over 25 MPH.
Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2002
Subject: BRO Info
Dear Mr. Shmerler,
Thank you....... or whoever put the link to "national agenda for motorcycle safety" on your site. i recieved the book in the mail, free. this is great! I consider myself a freedom fighter in the making, i am currently running for deputy coordinator of the A.B.A.T.E. chapter that i am with. i feel very strongly about motorcyclists freedom to choose. Anyway, please allow me to thank you, and your staff for the great site that you have! keep up the good work.
From: "Jeff Skjerseth" <email@example.com>
Subject: NHTSA Video Comments (BRO)
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001
I have been riding for 34 years, and I will not dispute the fact that helmets save lives, but this is not the issue. Freedom is the issue. Where does this government intrusion end? I am a very open minded individual, but people are far to eager to give up their freedom (which millions of Americans have died for) in the name of safety. This country wasn't founded on the principle of safety first, then freedom.
My question is where does this end. I am already "forced" to wear a seatbelt, forced to smoke in certain places, little by little those freedoms are taken away. Our entire government was setup specifically to limit the power of government. Ironically, it grows larger and larger everyday, and continually creeps into every individuals life more and more. If you want my help in promoting motorcycle safety by wearing helmets, count me in!! If you want my help to enact legislation to force people to wear a helmet, then you will find me on the other side of the isle. I simply cannot watch another battle were motorcycle riding becomes a "privilege", not a right and therefore subject to political insanity. Following this logic then jogging is a privilege as well. Therefore, all joggers need to wear a helmet to minimize injury in the name of safety.... Can you not see where this is all going. The sad thing is that it is really happening. They just passed a law, "in the name of safety", banning cell phone usage in New York!!! Yet statistics reveal that more people are injured changing the radio station. Perhaps we should pass a law banning stereo usage while driving, you know, in the name of safety. People are still free in America. This also includes the right to be ignorant of the benefits of wearing a helmet. Freedom first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I just want to thank you for all the great data and information that you have on your website. Obviously you have put in a lot of time and effort in the fight to Freedom. Abate of Massachusetts will be using some of the letters your wrote to manufacturers (awesome stuff) in our testimony on Thursday regarding our bill to Repeal Massachusetts Antiquated Helmet Law. We also have a link on our site to 2 of your stories/letters. (site http://www.abateofma.com)
Georgia Sophis-ABATE of MA Executive Director
Please copy my son Kellner on all our correspondence. He is way more connected to the riding community here than my work allows me to be day-to-day. While we are both avid riders, he is in his mid-twenties working at and frequenting the popular gathering places in town more than myself. You can expect many new contacts through him.
There is strong, intelligent, and energetic support for riders' freedom of choice here. We have work to do getting it together with the local ABATE chapter, which is and has been strong with the state legislature in recent years.
As usual, the independent nature of motorcyclists works in unwitting opposition to the unifying effort... nature of the beast. Organized information exchange is key. No doubt your site will serve as a catalyst.
We will be in touch..
I am currently writing a research paper on motorcycle helmet laws and I was wondering if you could send me so stats on accidents. I want to compare fatalities non helmeted vs. helmeted. I live in Indiana and I have tried to get stats from other sites and they are out dated. I would like to have the most recent if it is at all possible. Thank you for your time. And if there is anything else that you feel I might find helpful in my paper I would appericate it if you could send it along. Thank you.
Timothy J. Fox
Exellent information from the lid manufactures! Getting them to admit the laws of physics was a masterful stroke! I have sent that page to a couple of lists. Hopefully it shall do some good.
Kid Kelly. . .
Greetings from Georgia...
How can you say we're a "Helmet Law" state when the "No List, No Law" controversey rages on? I am just now becoming aware of the absence of consistency and vagueness that makes our helmet law situation here totally unenforceable. And, apparently, our local courts agree. For what it's worth...
STATE COURT OF GWINNETT COUNTY ,STATE OF GEORGIA vs. GREG D. ALSPACH FILE NO: 97 D4025-2 where Judge GENE REEVES, JR. ordered:
...It appears that the defendant in this case was wearing "protective headgear" in the form of a baseball cap, which arguably protects one from the sun, and which gives him the right to challenge the constitutionality of said statute since he was wearing 'protective headgear.' Said case is hereby dismissed as the statute on which it is based is too vague and indefinite to be capable of prosecution or defense, because there have been no standards established by the Department of Public Safety."
Doesn't sound like a mandatory helmet law to me...
So while I took your survey and answered yes to question #10 (right?) based on how I have been behaving, I am just now educating myself and preparing to go naked (from the neck up, that is) when I feel like it. Shouldn't you update your database and survey content?
I look forward to hearing from you...
Ray, GA's helmet law is just a little be more obviously broken, unconstitutional and unenforceable than others. But... GA still has it on the books and law enforcement is still writing tickets. Yes? Use the Force Luke.
I can't express in words how excited I am about the possibilities that are opening up in California for removing the helmet law. A great thanks should go out to Quig's unrelenting quest, even when he got zero support from most people out there. I hope there is a serious commitment to cooperation by all. Only then will California succeed, and only then can everyone share in the celebration of victory. Good luck to you guys out there, I hope you can all pull it off. Nice to see the several sides working together for a change.
October 29, 2000
I use 2 into 1 pipes because my bike runs better . I always wondered why it couldn't work for us. Great to see you Californian's finally getting together! Man this is welcomed news. Now put all that hot air and energy into one pipe and blow this law out!
Don Cramden, NY
Sun, Oct 29, 2000 @ 9:19 AM PST
Thanks for this site! We need to rid ourselves of 3rd parties who think they know what's best for us. Many of the lawmakers haven't even been on a bike! Yet they're telling us what we need to ride? As long as they're in our yard, well we know a thing or two about doing their jobs then too. First is LET THOSE THATE RIDE DECIDE! We jazzed about the latest efforts and hope that the common goals will bring understanding in the different ways we can contribute to this fight. There is not just one way to win. In battle, any way that can wins. Hats off to ABATE and BOLT! This should send a strong message to all states how we can pursue our freedom together. Let us never be divided by our opposition again. Now... go get 'em. I want to be Free again come next Spring. Amen.
Just wanted to drop a friendly note to say that your site is dynamite....it's the most up-to-date, interesting and relevant page I've found re: Biker's Rights. I use it all the time to glean good stuff for our ABATE meeting. Keep it up.
North Valley ABATE (CA) #31
In my own personal quest to obtain information on my freedom of choice rights, I have had many obsticles. I see alot of time and effort in your site and I am one person that it has helped. I am attempting to fight a no helmet ticket in Moreno Valley Ca. and the information here will allow me to present a professional case. If nothing else, the court will have to read some paperwork. What you have done is appreciated.
Please post on your BACKFIRE! or somewhere where we can get people thinking about the accountability of the CDC.
I don't understand how these people got involved in helmet laws and gun control. But somehow we need to get the word out to the people dying of cancer and other diseases that these people are misappropriating and squandering tax dollars on their flights of fancy.
If I were dying of cancer, which is entirely possible some day, I would be very interested to know that the CDC is off somewhere with Sarah Brady gathering up guns and issuing helmets.
Gary Baird (Slackman)
I got that info right off to her. There are several powerful pieces of info on your site that have already helped to move a few new Legislators closer to our side.
The woman I spoke to is a long time Legislator here in Oregon. She is an E.R. Nurse and, as is typical for many in the Medical profession, does not look favorably towards repealing the mandatory helmet law. I have been working on her for years and while she is a very nice woman and I like her very much, but she has been immovable on this issue.
The DOT/NHTSA data carried a lot of weight with her because of it's credibility with Legislators and because the conclusions were so crisp and clear.
She is still far from being converted to a "yes" vote, however the wall is starting to crumble.
I have also used the info on your site to help educate "Freshmen" Legislators. This is Oregon's first year with term limits so there are a lot of new faces in Salem this year. Most have no idea what the facts are but subscribe to the standard "social burden" and "common sense" theories.
We have a set of helmet repeal bills working their way through the legislature. If you're interested, you can check out our site.
Thanks for providing this important info in an easy to find/easy to read format!
From: Lee Jordan Sixties872@aol.com
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997
Subject: BRO - Backfire Good job Texas
I would like to make a few points relating to our fight for freedom from all helmet laws.
First, there are states that will not repeal their helmet laws unless we compromise. In these states the riders have a choice to wear a helmet forever or make a compromise. If we decide to wait until we are treated as first class citizens, we will be waiting forever. Blaming Texas for influencing the actions of other states is not appropiate.
The state governments do what they want. They may say that another state is doing something, but that is just a convenient excuse to get support for what they want. If this were truely the case, then all of the states would either have a full helmet law or a helmet law for minors only.
Divide and conquer is a practice we need to use on our opposition, not ourselves. We were singled out and the precedence set to treat us differently in 1966 when the Federal Department of Transportation started the helmet law movement. The courts don't always make fair decisions on the technical aspects of the law and we have no constituational right to ride without a helmet. We have to deal with a society and government that will never be completely fair with us. Since we can't count on the courts for our freedom, we have to work with the legislatures.
An inherent aspect of the legislature is compromise; without it our rights movement will not go forward. I realize there are riders who will make the choice to wear helmets forever before they make any compromise. Your ideals are admirable and the legislatures of many states will be glad to let you continue wearing helmets until you are willing to compromise.
As we know, freedom is not free, and if the price of getting the helmet off is reasonable, we should go for it. Let's work to maximize our freedom. If we can win in court; good. If not, we may get more freedom by working with the state legislatures, however we will have to be willing to compromise in some states if we expect to get more freedom.
Lee Jordan, California
What is with our ABATE brothers? All they can do is pick on one another.
What's with Bikers in general? When I was handing out State Run flyers and Bailing Wires at Bolado Park outside Hollister, I was amazed at how many people had no idea what ABATE has accomplished or our involvment in the fight for motorcycle rights. Do we have to do all the work?
I'm mad as hell and not going to take it any more!
Rant, vent, rant, vent!
Subj: Reply to Sputnik - TEXAS
June 22, 1997
Just a very brief observation on the MRF Briefing on Texas SB99 and subsequent reply from Sputnik.
My personal feelings are the MRF is on target with their concerns in this matter. Accepting SB99 in it's present form was a huge error in my opinon. I have a lot of respect for Sputnik and the Texas "warriors", but they dropped the ball on this one. This has the possibility national ramifications, and I don't appreciate any state jeopardizing the work that has been done nationally so far. It's a bitter pill to take, letting all that work slide until the next legislative session, but Texan's should have thought harder about it. As for them contacting legislators in other states, someone did contact Senator Zien, in Wisconsin. Supposedly due to his title of NCOM Legislative Advisor. He does not speak for Wisconsin bikers, ABATE here condemned SB99, and he never consulted with us for our opinon, before talking to Texas. NCOM may support this type of legislation, most ABATE's I've contacted don't.
Tony "Pan" Sanfelipo
a right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take from you.
Subj: Helmet effectiveness
June 17, 1997
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Calvin & Tammy Armerding)
I believe that when you suggested that we take our ABATE myths and shove them you forgot some important points.
1. Passage of the helmet law in California resulted in a 500% increase in spinal cord injuries. This is in spite of the fact that motorcycle registrations dropped over 30% over the first two years of the helmet law, and have not recovered.
2. DOT testing has proven that helmets impair your hearing and your vision, making you less safe as you ride. NHTSA's take on this testing was the following: We do not consider that this reduction makes riders less safe because all the riders in our tests compensated by turning their heads more. I translate this to read that riders with helmets spend less time looking at the road ahead of them.
3. Helmets trap heat, leading to increased rider fatigue. It has been calculated that a helmet has the same heat trapping effect as three wool hats. During hot weather this leads to increased fatigue and increased incidence of heat stroke.
4. If helmets are the panacea that you and others would claim, where are the results. The death rate in California dropped from 2.8 deaths per hundred accidents in 1991 to 2.4 deaths per hundred in 1992, primarily due to a change in the way the CHP collects their data, a change which resulted in many more minor accidents being added to the totals; accidents which did not lead to deaths or serious injuries, and which, consequently, diluted the totals. Last year the death rate had risen back to 2.6 and is still increasing. this figure is the only one that has any meaning when discussing helmet effectiveness as it is the only calculation that takes into account changing ridership.
5. Finally, where are the results nationwide. The states with full helmet laws have a higher death rate than the states without helmet laws, or with helmet laws restricted to minors only. If helmets are saving lives, then there should be a drastic difference between the free and restricted states in the direction of saved lives. In fact, you are less likely to die in an accident while riding in a free state.
Don, the proof of the cooking is in the pudding. If helmet laws are saving lives, other than by discouraging people to ride motorcycles, where is the proof. ABATE is not blowing smoke, we have the proof on our side and we will continue to show people until they realize that they are being lied to by the insurance companies and the statist do-gooders.
President ABATE Local 15, Contra Costa County
President, ABATE Local 14, Alameda County
After reading the info about helmets and your letter to them....
1. I can reduce my chances of a fatal injury 40 % by riding "with" a helmet; if I put two and a half helmets in my saddlebags, will I be completely safe from fatal injury?
2. If my wife is with me, is that 40% divided by two? multiplied by two? increased exponentially?
Seriously though, I find your page most informative. I'm on your mailing list and enjoy reading them. Good service -- good site.