Saturday, January 27, 1996

Los Angeles Times
Letter To the Editor
Times Mirror Square
Los Angeles, CA 90053

RE: Who's Head is it Anyway?

To Whom it May Concern,

Regarding Article, "Assembly OKs Repeal of Helmet Law". AB-244 is not a repeal, it is a modification giving adults over 21 the "freedom of choice." whether to wear one or not.

Assemblyman Richard Katz stated there was a 45% reduction in fatalities since the helmet law. He didn't say that DMV motorcycle registrations are down over 22% (138,292) since the helmet law and that those still riding - ride 18% less and that there has been a dramatic increase in graduations from the motorcycle training course.

Fatalities are down because there are less motorcyclists riding less often and those that are riding have better skills. Further, the death to accident ratio has not changed since the helmet law. It remains statistically constant around 2.5%, which clearly indicates that helmets have had no effect. The only thing that is having a positive effect on reducing fatalities is preventing accidents which is a direct result of motorcycle training.

Helmets cut off one's peripheral vision and hearing, increase forward inertia dramatically so you hit the ground harder. To comply with the DOT, helmets are tested on a stationary head-form on a bench by dropping a weight on them - which simulates only 15 MPH and has no relation to the effects of a helmet on a body in motion. If you look at the sticker inside most DOT helmets you will see a disclaimer to this effect. Although repeatedly requested, the state has never issued a list of approved helmets. I wonder why...

Helmets are also cited as having the potential to break one's neck if you land on your back and in falls where the added inertia of the head coupled with one's body weight stresses the neck. There is also the wind resistance fatigue factor, bees and heat to consider too.

Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa stated helmets saved 189 lives. This represents only .03% of all registered motorcyclists. Far more people fall in the bath tub. Will we be restricted to showing next? For all those that still think helmets are a panacea, AB-244 doesn't outlaw helmets. It simply reclaims freedom of choice. I find it disturbing that Governor Wilson can condemn the White House for big government yet supports government intervention at home which effects hundreds of thousands of people based on a flawed university study and 189 people.

Like it or not, motorcycling can be dangerous. The key to safety is better riding skills and fostering a higher awareness of motorcyclists among auto drivers. Motorcycle safety training prevents accidents. Helmets are an unproven band-aid. Helmets may save lives in certain falls, but they also kill. Therefore, shouldn't it be our decision if I want to risk wearing one?

Steven Shmerler

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