New Push For Helmet Laws

November 22, 2013

All Posts, News

The helmet law debate, now in its 47th year, is starting to heat up again. In the last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the British Magazine The Economist have editorialized for a national, mandatory helmet law for motorcycle riders. Yesterday a Republican Congressman from Michigan named Tim Walberg accused the CDC of trying “to reduce the use of motorcycles – a legal mode of transportation.”

The original helmet laws were a result of the National Highway Safety Act of 1966, which was passed in response to the publication of Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe At Any Speed published the year before. Helmet laws were almost an afterthought in that bill which mandated the standardization of bumper heights, safer gas tanks, padded dashboards, collapsible steering wheels and factory installed seat belts. Forty-nine states had helmet laws by 1975. The lone holdout was California which led the nation in motorcycle registrations.

The original intent of that 1966 law was to reduce traffic fatalities. Most states repealed their helmet laws because, as a Michigan appeals court put it, the “logic” used to justify helmet laws “could lead to unlimited paternalism.” The current campaign for mandatory helmet laws is that riding without a helmet presents an unacceptable risk for insurers.

The Economist

In its editorial in the United States print edition published November 16, The Economist argued, “When states repeal or weaken motorcycle-helmet laws, as dozens have, helmet use falls, fatalities rise and head-injury hospitalizations soar. Biker deaths rose 18 percent after Michigan repealed its all-rider helmet law in 2012. A rule obliges un-helmeted Michigan riders to carry at least $20,000 in medical-payments coverage. That does not even cover initial stabilization in intensive care after a nasty crash.”

The editorial continued, “Libertarians often demand: ‘Let those who ride decide,’ says Jacqueline Gillan, who heads Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an insurer-funded lobby group. Her retort is: ‘Let those who pay have a say.’”

The Economist noted that this is a partisan issue. Most helmet law opponents are Republicans. An important Republican Congressman named Tom Petri wants the CDC “to stop researching motorcycle safety” because he thinks the Centers have “an anti-motorcycle agenda.” Most opponents of helmet laws in state legislatures are also Republicans. So it’s not surprising that Walberg, a long time rider and a member of both the American Motorcyclist Association and the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus takes issue with the CDC’s most recent hymn to mandatory helmet use, a report published late last month titled, “Motor Vehicle Related Injury Prevention: Economic Impact of Motorcycle Helmet Laws.”


The CDC thinks mandatory helmet laws reduce health care costs – which is a subject of much fevered debate in Washington these days. As a matter of fact, all motor vehicle crashes are responsible for a little less than two percent of all American health costs and motorcycle crashes represent a tiny percentage of that.

But the CDC and The Economist agree that it is very expensive to survive a catastrophic bike crash. The British magazine alleges that helmetless riders in major crashes “typically run up $1.3m in direct medical costs” and that “fewer than a third work again.” The CDC study argues that taxpayers are stuck with paying 63 percent of the cost of the aftermath of these accidents.

So there is obviously going to be a push this winter to enact a nationwide helmet law. You just haven’t heard about it on your local news yet.


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66 Responses to “New Push For Helmet Laws”

  1. Sieg Says:

    JMack, if ya want one, let me know. I will get it and ship it up to ya, or I can maybe send it to someone I know along your side of the border.



    5 to 1

  2. Meh Says:

    “If Republicans are supposed to be so anti-helmet law, why does every state in the deep south (Republican through and through) have a mandatory helmet law except South Carolina?”

    Because SC ABATE was active years ago and met with legislators. It also continues to support legislators who support adult freedom of choice. Friendly, positive interaction was and is key.

    A few votes can EASILY be decisive in many elections and there is actually zero downside at the ballot box when a legislator sides with bikers rights.

    BTW there is also zero downside to getting rid of POV inspections outside the Rust Belt as mechanical failures don’t contribute significantly to crash rates. SC dealers and shops were losing money doing inspections and raising rates wouldn’t fly, so they worked against inspections and the requirement was rescinded.

  3. Tactical111 Says:

    Have ridden bikes since 1967 mostly in So Cal on and off road but now in SE Michigan. Have crashed/slid down many times with and without a helmet on. Have been lucky but can truthfully say helmets have probably saved my life as evidenced by the damage to the helmet.

    I get the whole “personal freedom” and “Nanny State” arguements but personally never ride w/o a good helmet on even though it’s not a full face though I have one of those too. To me it just seems like the smart thing to do.

  4. 11c_infantry Says:

    @Glenn S,
    So are you saying the guys that work at barnyard are LEMC members? If so, that probably explains why they look at me funny when I come in wearing a real three piece patch set.
    L&R to those who earned it,

  5. Tooj Says:

    Rider weight limits…coming right up!

  6. YYZ Skinhead Says:

    Snow and Sieg,

    BIG PROPS for those kickass links. I never know what odd but desired info I’ll find on Rebel’s site.

    YYZ Helmethead

  7. Sieg Says:

    T111, I got my first sled in 1967, in el-Lay. I’ve ridden all over the country, based outta Kali, Chicago, and a few points in between.

    Never wore a helmet unless I was required to do so by law.

    Been down, really, seriously down, a handful of times, and have never so much as bumped my head. Went down on the PCH, out past Malibu, on my first hog, broke everything there was to break-guess I hit my head, but I was out for three days, so I didn’t notice! The other times I always managed to keep my gourd of the ground.

    If you want to wear a lid, hey-I absolutely support yer right to wear it, a thousand and ten percent. At the very least, it will keep a riders face pretty for the funeral.

    That said, ANY helmet law, or any other mandatory equipment law, sucks.

    5 to 1

  8. Big RAGU Says:

    So much time & energy is spent by Cats
    Screaming “Who the fuck is you to tell me what to Do”

    Well I ride, and have both Full Face Helmets & 1/2 Dot & German Style as well.

    No matter the weather, still prefer my Full Face.

    That said, The reason why I wear any Helmet is for safety, My Safety.

    The problem is when riders actively choose not to

    Then go down, traumatic brain injuries occur & medical costs skyrocket &
    If their is insurance that’s adequate to begin with
    So we have to pick up the bill for your choices I had no say so in

    Health care companies & insurances love to
    “We have a responsibility to our share holders”
    Which is to make them money 1st- so fuck their funny, warm & fuzzy commercials
    Tell the truth, if profits sag & reduced, the companies lobby to change the law
    To require the riders to wear a Helmet so as to protect their
    Profits, not their beloved riders.

    That said, I care about ALL riders so yes, Please wear one all the time.

    It’s sad were a minor or moderate crash goes nuclear for poor chouces

  9. Snow Says:

    Before anyone slams you here let me state something, this country was founded by people who wanted choices, choices in where they lived, jobs they held, religions they practiced or didn’t practice. It was NOT founded for insurance companies bottom line, politicians PAC money, or the latest feel good scam.
    We are the descendents of those men and women who put their lives on the line for that freedom. Our fathers and grandfathers fought wars and some gave their lives so we could remain free. Now you want to come here and tell us to submit because insurance companies aren’t making as many millions as they projected because they have to pay a claim.
    Well my answer to you is the same as to them, FUCK YOU, TOUGH SHIT or as my friend WARTHOG so eloquently puts it, GO FUCK YOURSELF, EAT SHIT AND DIE.
    Now understand this comes from someone who chooses to wear a full face helmet, those that pass on the helmet altogether probably feel more strongly about the subject.
    Support Your Local

  10. Sieg Says:

    “So much time & energy is spent by Cats Screaming “Who the fuck is you to tell me what to Do””

    Wouldn’t be wasted if the muffler-sniffers at NHTSA and the various insurance lobbies would quit foisting the agit-prop off on us as science.

    If you take the time to look at the numbers NHTSA posts, you’ll find that in most states, non-helmet wearing riders die at a much lower rate than those wearing helmets. As far as the insurance costs, that’s an old, old bugaboo. The vast majority of accidents involve motor vehicles other than bikes-you can, again, verify all this on NHTSA’s site. Given that only a tiny percentage of all injuries suffered in accidents are suffered by motorsickle riders, it doesn’t add up that they are driving up insurance rates. Even given the amount of money a TBI will eat-up, they aren’t driving up insurance rates.

    Most motorcycle accidents involve either a beginning rider, a rider who has recently moved up to a larger scoot, or alcohol. Especially alcohol.

    Mayhap given all of that, it would be better to require mandatory breathalyzers via an ignition interlock?! That’s sarcasm, before anyone jumps me.

    Bottom line. It’s not your business if I wear a helmet, an orange vest, chaps, or a doo-wa-diddy when I ride. You mind your bidness and I’ll mind mine.

    5 to 1

  11. stroker Says:

    @ BigRagu:
    You sound like you’ve drunk the cool-aid. You’re spouting the same drivel the safety-know-nothing-Nazis want us to believe. I agree with Sieg’s post above. The stats do NOT support your opinion. Your argument SOUNDS good, even sounds reasonable, to the uninformed. Still, I support your right to say what you want, and wear what you want. Just don’t try to force it on me.

  12. Tooj Says:

    So much time & energy is spent by Cats Screaming “I fucking want to tell you what to do”. The reasons why are immaterial and serve as hollow excuses.

    It’s like teaching a pig to tap dance…

  13. Phuquehed Says:

    Heh heh heh…Sieg beat me to the inevitable with RAGU’s post and does it much nicer and more eloquently than I can. You got lucky, RAGU, you fucker!

  14. Cap'n Bill Says:

    Well, I sent an email to the CDC and all I’ve got back so far was a computer generated reply.
    @ CN – I have BC/BS also & feel like if I pay then I ‘should’ be able to play, however ‘risky’ my activity is. I mean, I haven’t fallen down in a long time and usually avoid crowds of cars & such that would happily assist me in falling.



  15. Ankit @ Helmets n Heores Says:

    I applaud the change in the law that allows freedom of choice. Govt has no business telling its populace how to live their lives regardless of the personal choice and behavior that follows.

  16. Tom @Elite Says:

    I hope that comes in to place, there needs to be more people who ride wearing helmets, without them its just moronic.

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