Skip to comments.Motorcycle helmet laws detract from freedom
Posted on 12/27/2012 10:39:48 AM PST by MichCapCon
Last spring, Michigan eliminated its helmet requirement for motorcycle riders who had additional insurance coverage and met other conditions.
Six months after the bill went into effect, MLive ran an investigative series claiming to show the "regrettable impact of the change."
The series focused on one main point: Motorcyclists who chose not to wear a helmet were more likely to die or be seriously injured in their crashes. This is true, but the analysis is lacking in other areas and the insinuation that allowing people to not wear helmets is more dangerous is not supported by the data.
First, MLive discounts something important: That people who choose not to wear helmets are more reckless in general, and thus more likely to get in crashes as well as experience severe injury or death. That is, the report assumes every rider is exactly the same.
But thats not the case. As reporter John Barnes notes, for crashes, Helmetless operators were at fault 51 percent of the time, compared to 42 percent for those with helmets. They also were more likely to have been drinking, one in seven compared to one in 17 with helmets.
MLive ignores the evidence that helmetless riders are significantly more likely to get in accidents in the first place whether wearing a helmet or not.
Allowing riders the choice in protection separated them into categories of "riders with helmets" and "riders without helmets," whereas before they were all together, which skews the data for both groups. This oversight happens in many reports discussing motorcycle accidents and deaths and is almost always enough to throw out the rest of the analysis.
Second, it has been maintained that riding without a helmet can allow riders to avoid some accidents since the helmet can restrict vision. This is backed up by the data MLive presents. MLive notes that, "There were more than 3,000 motorcycle crashes (both with and without helmets) in Michigan since the state's helmet requirement was repealed in April. At least 700 of these involved riders or passengers without helmets." Around the country, 66 percent of motorcycle riders wear helmets, and the number is lower in states giving riders the choice.
So while it is too early in Michigan to know the percentage of riders who choose not to wear a helmet, these numbers suggest that they are less likely to get into accidents. And thats even with those riders being more prone to accidents in the first place.
The analysis also is incomplete.
For example, it may be true that not wearing a helmet means someone involved in an accident is more prone to death. But what are the coma or other severe injury rates of riders with and without helmets? Perhaps there is a trade-off in the types of injuries or death suffered.
The comparison also ignores the increased number of people registering to ride motorcycles compared to past years. One of the researchers hired by MLive concluded that his years of study convinced him that "helmet use does not reduce fatalities." This is not expanded upon or mentioned again. In the meantime, motorcycle fatalities and injuries have been stagnant or trending downward, despite no real trend in helmet usage; this is never mentioned or discussed.
The last point the analysis misses is what is known as the Peltzman Effect. The theory, popularized by University of Chicago economist Sam Peltzman, notes the tendency of people to react to a safety regulation by increasing other risky behavior, offsetting some or all of the benefit of the regulation. This suggests that riding without a helmet may mean cyclists driving more safely.
This risk compensation is well-documented and shows up in mandated seat belt use, bicyclist accidents from wearing helmets, moral hazard from bank and auto bailouts, flood deaths despite safer levees and many other instances in walks of life.
Riding a motorcycle is one of the most dangerous choices that someone can make: Riders are 5 to 14-times more likely to die than those riding in cars. But whether a rider chooses to wear a helmet or not should be left up to them; personal freedom only means something if people are able to do something other people dont like. And it is only because of the pervasiveness of government into our lives that motorcycle safety affects other people at all.
in before ‘donorcycle’ comment
In Before Dead Motorcyclists.
Nationally, fifty percent+ of all motorcycle accidents happen in just two states: California and Florida.
As long as those who ride have enough insurance to ensure lifetime care, it doesn’t matter to me.
Anecdotal, I admit: but I creased the back of a Bell helmet on a curb when I laid my bike down on a wet curve in college. Blew out my knee, but my brain stayed intact. I’ve managed for 35 years with a bum knee. Wouldn’t have lasted until I stopped bouncing if I hadn’t been wearing the helmet.
Owned a motorcycle years ago BEFORE helmet laws (NY). I had a helmet and would sometimes wear it (Interstate highway, trips, etc.) Locally I did not. Like everything else, risk v reward. When they started enforcing the helmet law everywhere in my county, I soon sold my motorcycle since riding in hot summer weather just wasn’t fun anymore. Not to mention the numerous tickets I got for not wearing a helmet.
If they really wanted to save lives, banning driving altogether would be the way to go, but of course they won’t do that, yet.
Still ride motorcycles? Or have you acquired a sense of self-preservation?
Don’t want to wear a helmet? Don’t, but your medical insurance shouldn’t pay for head injuries.
I’m not too impressed with the Bell being sold today for Joe Average riders. The racing helmets might be a different thing altogether, but AFAIAC the gold standard is Arai.
I always try to crash in such a way so as I don’t scratch that expensive helmet ;-)
I agree. One out of six motor vehicle deaths are motorcyclists. I love to ride. So much fun, so much risk, expecially with all the women on their cell phones.
LOL - actually, I sold my last bike when my wife was pregnant with our first child, and we rented a Harley about a month ago for our first motorcycle experience in 23 years. And had a ball. Rode out to Luckenbach, had a beer, listened to live music - perfect Texas Hill Country fall Saturday.
I did, however, notice that I’m much more cautious when riding than I was in my early 30s. I still love it, though.
A lot of the DOT helmets that riders wear just to comply with the law are nearly worthless in a crash anyway.
I have 200 thousand miles on motorcycles and would not ride without a full face helmet. However, the only time I actually needed the helmet in all those miles was when I fell off a bike in my garage and smashed my head against the edge of a workbench. That rang my bell even with the helmet on. Without it I likely would have ended up on the hospital or worse.
Those who love Freedom and Responsibility want no helmet Laws. (They would almost universally say that there's nothing wrong with public service messages, public education, and sincere urgings from every level of government, by the way.) These laws do NOTHING to protect citizens from one another... they only protect us from ourselves... and this is NOT a door we need to open any wider than it already is.
Those who love their faith and their fellow citizens want to protect them, even from the possibility of their own bad choices. They would have no problem with using the power (and firearms) of government to make sure that their countrymen are living a "better" life, as they see fit. They are exactly the same as the Taliban, albeit with rules that make far more sense than Islam. (However, I personally prefer to be convinced to live differently through words or experience, and not the force of laws, and arms, and fines, and bureaucracies.)
"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ~C.S. Lewis
It’s all or nothing, right? And if you prefer nothing, then why allow the government to force you to drive on the right side of the road?
You mean if I drive a cage I might live forever?
The one factor which was not measured, which will never be measured is the number of both groups which did not get in accidents, fatal or otherwise.
If you can see/hear what's coming you can avoid it.
I humped a 70 lbs rucksack up and down the mountains of the central highlands of Viet Nam wearing a steel pot to protect the freedom of my countrymen and me to ride a motorcycle without a fiberglass helmet.
Its my head, leave me alone with it.
More people die each year from head injuries in auto accidents than motorcycle wrecks so let them wear helmets first.
A helmet-less proud Harley Rider.
A Co, 1/8th Infantry, 4thID
There's no adult helmet law here in NH (over 18 year old). Helmet usage seems to be about 30-40% during our annual Motorcycle Week in Laconia, and most seem to be worn by the younger riders. I'm more worried about the women in cars yakking endlessly on their cellphones or texting (which is illegal).
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