Use Your Head!
(Disclaimer: we do not provide legal advise)
FOR THE RECORD, no one is saying helmets don't provide safety benefits. They do. But, there is also evidence that there are safety risks. Unlike seat belts, there is little data on the effects of a helmeted body in motion from a bike crash.
Officials often state that helmet laws reduce accidents. A helmet cannot stop an accident. But... a helmet law does reduce riding. Per the DMV, California has 40% less bikes registered today then in 1992 when the state enacted its helmet law! And of those that continue to ride... they ride less often. The math: less bikers riding less often = less targets for cars to hit, which therefore = less accidents.
Instead of confusing the public with gross accident statistics that have no relation to the ability of a helmet to provide enough safety to even think about a mandate, many Officials don't quote, or even know, whether helmets have had an effect on the ratio of the number of deaths from head injury as related to the number of accidents. That is the stat you want to know!
Recently, a number of states have modified helmet laws to permit motorcyclists to ride without a helmet if they carry specific health insurance coverage or pass a rider training course. Other "partial" helmet-use laws, such as those requiring only certain age groups to use helmets, have unknown effectiveness because of enforcement issues. These approaches dilute the original reasons for the law and may raise confusion about the usefulness and role of helmets.
So why all the disinformation? Follow the money trail. The life insurance industry can't control their car drivers from hitting us, but they can control the number of targets their drivers can hit by backing helmet laws that reduce riding. This all dovetails nicely with the prejudice and propoganda against motorcycling.
We're seen as anti-social, public burdens, scofflaws, "scary", etc. instead of energy and road space efficient travelers that contribute millions of dollars to the economy and charities of every type. Take a recent Maryland "study", for example, that refers to beanie helmets as "Nazi style". WOW! Then there's the ever present public mindset; since football players, astronauts and racers wear them, we're crazy not to. If only it were that simple.
Call ANY helmet manufacturer and see if you can get a straight answer whether their helmets cause neck injury or protect your head at speeds over 15 MPH. Try it...
Officials don't tell you how many neck injuries are caused by helmets. When air bags were found to hurt and kill children, NHTSA aggressively studied the situation and determined that they are, in fact, safe "if" used correctly, but that they can kill if not. As a result, air bags are not mandatory and can be disconnected legally. This begs the question, since there are cases where riders have sustained neck injury from their helmet, why isn't this being studied so that we can once and for all, ALL know the pros and cons of helmets. Like air bags, helmets should be a matter of freedom of choice.
The next time someone is in your face about helmets, quote Snell to them:
"A helmet that can take one of our headforms through these 2 impacts unscathed could probably handle a single impact somewhat greater than 17.3 MPH, but certainly no more than 23 MPH." - Snell
The best way to protect yourself is take an approved motorcycle safety course, maintain your bike, wear leathers, wear eyewear, ride responsibly and above all:
Don't Drink, Drug and Ride...
We asked a number of helmet companies the following:
Anatomy of a Helmet Ticket - I recently received a 2nd ticket from the same deputy for the same helmet in West Hollywood. The first ticket had been dismissed at arraignment. Here's my complaint letter.
Hold The Cheese - What's more dangerous: hamburgers or no helmets? LA Times (2/96).
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218 - (FMVSS 218) The federal standard for motorcycle helmets specified by California Law (CVC 27802) and other states. Full text with pictures...
Helmets & Necks - Letter to NHTSA
NHTSA Helmet Test Results - 1980 to 1994
Roadside Tests Debunked - is a roadside stop and analysis of your helmet by the police in compliance with the strict guidelines of FMVSS 218?
The CODES Study - Analysis and comments
CODES Study Overstates Public Costs - Analysis by the MRF
Airbags Not Mandatory - as of January 1998 because of 87 deaths out of thousands of deployments (see airbag crash statistics). Sure helmets protect your head, but they also cause spinal cord injuries, which has been documented as far back as 1969 by NY State DMV and Dr. Goldstein in 1986. Isn't it amazing that helmets are not treated the same way as airbags? In comparison to airbags and even bicycle helmets, there is strikingly little government statistical real crash head and neck injury data available on motorcycle helmets. Yet legislators and NHTSA ignore the private or state studies and insist helmets save lives without ever discussing the very real neck injury risks.
Understanding Head & Neck Trauma - By Tony Pan Sanfelipo. Trauma is the result of violent and sudden inertia or 'g-forces' upon the body. When dealing with motorcycle accidents, it's important to understand these forces, which body parts are affected and how they react to certain inertia or 'g-forces'.
UCLA Helmet Study Review - Thunder Press 1994
Motorcycle Accident & Fataility Rates - Comparison between mandatory helmet law and voluntary helmet use States.