government tells us that it is perfectly legal to jump out of a perfectly
working airplane, bungee jump, use tobacco (the #1 killer in the United States
today), use alcohol (the #2 killer), SCUBA dive, and hang glide. However,
it is illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet in North Carolina. Is
this hypocrisy or just old-time, flat-out, biker discrimination?
Human nature causes most people to inherently apply their personal opinion to what they think should be public policy. If we all step back and take a more humble approach, we see that our own opinion is a personal view and should not necessarily become a law. There are many differing opinions on this subject. Repealing North Carolina's mandatory helmet law will not require riders to remove their helmets. Riders would be free to choose for themselves. Erring on the side of freedom of choice gives every citizen the ability to be happy (Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness).
Another problem with the focus on just helmet safety is that it encourages state governments to enact mandatory helmet laws. Unfortunately many people don't understand that just because something may be a good idea, that doesn't mean it should be made into a law. It's a good idea to brush your teeth in the morning, but you should not get arrested if you don't brush every morning.
Just because an activity involves risk doesn't mean you should be prohibited from taking that risk. Skydiving seems more dangerous than bicycling. It makes no sense for the government to allow skydiving without a helmet on one hand, and to outlaw helmetless bicycle riding on the other.
If I am 21 years old, and have lived in my legislative district for one year, I can run for the NC House of Representatives. If I win, I can be a NC House Rep. I can then be able to vote on the existing helmet bill (House Bill # 839). We give 21 year olds the ability to make helmet laws, drink alcohol, fight in combat zones in Iraq, die for our country, but they are not allowed to ride a motorcycle without a helmet.
Accident Avoidance and Injury Reduction:
Helmets contribute to injury reduction AFTER a crash. However, concentrating on accident avoidance by getting as much rider safety training as possible, and riding within your own limits, is what keeps riders upright. A rider's motorcycling skills had better be top notch. If not, no amount of head protection in the world is going to save him.
Some riders use helmets as a panacea for motorcycle safety. They ride around in shorts, a T-shirt, and wear a $600 helmet. Helmet use is not the complete story on motorcycle safety and should never be exaggerated into becoming a safety solution. Poor physical condition, dulled senses, alcohol, drugs, poor motorcycle maintenance, or a lack of rider skills training, will result in the rubber side leaving the road. Injury reduction is always welcomed. It has it's place in motorcycle safety. Unfortunately, far too many riders think they are safe because they are wearing a helmet, while they ignore the other, more important aspect of riding safety. This is the old debate between accident avoidance and injury reduction. Both are important and should be considered by all riders. However, never place more importance on injury reduction than you do on accident avoidance.
States without mandatory helmet laws get the bulk of the tourism dollars from motorcyclists. All of the four major rallies, (Sturgis, Laconia, Bike Week, and Biketoberfest) are held in free states. North Carolina's pro-choice sister state (SC) is the host to Myrtle Beach Bike Week which attracts 400,000 riders. NOTHING in North Carolina comes anywhere close to any of these rallies. It has been reported by Myrtle Beach authorities that each rider spends approximately $1500 dollars during Bike Week. At 400,000 riders, that's $600M infused into the SC economy because of Myrtle Beach Bike Week. By allowing adult riders the right to decide, North Carolina could host a large motorcycle rally and reap the financial benefits. Considering the budget crisis that North Carolina currently faces, this should seem attractive to everyone in North Carolina.
The costs of head injuries:
It is easy to gather financial statistics about the costs of head injuries by riders who don't wear helmets. Those records are readily available in hospital records and police reports. How can we gather statistics concerning how many times a rider did NOT go down because he/she was NOT wearing a sight and hearing impairing helmet? That is just not possible.
If we reduce the number of overall accidents, the fatality rate will also drop. The answer is more rider safety training, not mandatory helmet laws. If legislators placed as much emphasis on allocating funds for rider training as they do on mandatory helmet laws, there wouldn't be waiting lists for rider training classes and bikers wouldn't be dying while waiting to attend a safety class.
Are bikers a social burden?
The insurance companies would like legislators to think that motorcyclists are a bunch of uninsured public burdens. The fact is motorcycling is a public asset, not a public burden. Motorcycle sales are booming, and the states with freedom of choice have the highest growth. Motorcycle sales equal jobs in motorcycle dealerships, custom shops and service centers. All these jobs equal additional revenue for the state. More motorcycle use means less congestion, less road wear and less fuel consumption. Bikers are not public burdens because we pay taxes and share the same burdens as every other taxpayer. We pay for welfare even when we don't use it. We pay for lung cancer treatments even though we may not smoke. We pay for alcohol abuse programs and treatments even though we may not drink. We pay for uninsured auto accident victims, and the list goes on and on.
MROs' Position on Helmets:
Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations (MROs') are NOT against helmet USE. They are against mandatory helmet LAWS. Many MRO members are pro helmet use, but anti helmet law. Many riders just don't like wearing helmets period. They feel that the risk is worth the ride. They feel the reduction in hearing and vision, combined with the added risk of cervical damage outweighs the risk of head injury. Many people feel that riding a motorcycle is crazy. They do not understand that the risk, for us, is worth the ride.
The purpose is to understand that everyone should have the choice to decide what is right for themselves. The government shouldn't decide what is safe and what is unsafe for individuals. If we give them that power, who's is to say that they might not decide that riding motorcycles is too dangerous? The power belongs to the people and it is the people who should decide. Bikers should make their own decisions. Legislators don't know or understand these decisions unless they ride. Most of the legislators who ride, support the repeal of the mandatory helmet law. Legislators who do not ride should take their direction from the biker constituents and the legislators who do ride.
Safety experts, motorcycle enthusiasts and statisticians will argue until the cows come home on whether the death rate goes up or down with mandatory laws. The bottom line is that it all boils down to whether you think the government's job is to dictate personal safety and control individuals. Again, it's not about helmet USE. It's not about the DEVICE. It's about the LAW. LET THOSE WHO RIDE DECIDE!!! To help repeal North Carolina's mandatory helmet law for adults, please join the CBA and get involved. www.cba-abatenc.org or see www.NCRider.com