Motorcycle Forums banner

Helmet Law Repeal Stats

31325 Views 185 Replies 73 Participants Last post by  Hades
just wear a helmet.
1 - 6 of 186 Posts
Why we need helmet laws

This is a reprint from the last time we went through this. Abe Froman is not allowed to reply.


The most contentious and emotional debate among American motorcyclists is the one over helmet laws. Should society, working through a democratically elected state legislature, require motorcyclists to wear an approved safety helmet?

The US Supreme Court has made many decisions about which rights US citizens have which government may not abridge. Such rights include reproduction, interstate travel, right to contract, right to work, etc. Although these rights are not mentioned in the US Constitution, they are nevertheless protected, since the Ninth Amendment of the Bill Of Rights says that rights not "enumerated" in other parts of the constitution are still rights.

But, just because a person does a thing does not make it a right. Homosexual sodomy, for instance, although it affects nobody except the er, pitcher and catcher, is illegal in many states, since the Supreme Court did not hold such a practice as a "right" like other rights.

So what makes a right a right? The concurring opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut tries to determine "which rights are fundamental..." To do this, Justices Warren, Goldberg and Brennan say courts must "look to the traditions and collective conscience of our people to determine whether a principle is so rooted there as to be ranked as fundamental." Once the right is recognized, the court should then decide if that right is "of such a character that it cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions..."

So we are faced with a two-tiered determination. First, the action in question must be rooted in the collective mind of our society as being fundamental. That is, a reasonable, average American (whoever THAT is) must agree, totally, that it is a fundamental right to do this thing. Next, this right cannot be denied without being an egregious attack on personal liberty.

That's why states cannot force welfare mothers to be sterilized. No reasonable person would feel that the right to reproduce is not a basic human right, and limiting that right would be outrageous. Can you imagine having to get a "sex license" from your city hall? Or requiring obese people to present ration card to their grocery clerks? Such notions are repugnant to anybody with even a small amount of respect for other's rights.

Let's apply this motorcycling without a helmet. Is feeling the wind in your thinning scalp at 70 MPH a right rooted in our collective mind? Would a reasonable person, without a moment's hesitation, agree that you have a right to endanger your thin (and not to copious) skull like that?

But lets say this mythical reasonable man did such a thing. Does limiting this right outrage our sensibilities, or notions of freedom? It sure does for some people. But not enough to universally overturn helmet laws, or even the majority of the people it affects, i.e. motorcyclists. Even in states without helmet laws, over half the riders wear helmets. Presumably, if helmet laws outrageously infringed on personal liberty, there would be a massive outcry from motorcyclists of every ilk, as well as the public at large.

Continuing to play devil's advocate, let's say going helmetless IS a fundamental right. Can a state infringe on a fundamental right? The answer is yes, if the state has a compelling interest.

Here is the heart of the debate. One side says helmet laws don't do a thing for the state, and the other side says they save the state money and save human lives. Who has the heavier burden of proof?

I would say the anti-helmet law people do. If the state can save even $10,000 (to pick a random number) by requiring helmets, I would say that that is compelling enough to override the right of motorcyclists to go helmet less. Can ABATE honestly say helmet laws don't save states even a minimal amount of money? Even anti-helmet law websites acknowledge fewer head injuries in helmet law states. I would say even a realitively small amount of savings negates a person's almst indetectible right to feel that breeze on the pate.

But pro-helmet advocates have an easier job. The "right" we are sacrificing is not one exercised by reasonable people. Would you really rather smack your head hard on something without a helmet? If you posed that question to 100 people, how many would prefer it au naturel? It's just not reasonable to say it's better to not wear the minumum of head protection.

There's a second argument the anti-helmet folks use. If we let them take away this "right", they will keep restricting other rights until we can't ride motorcycles at all. Like appeasing Hitler, the "safety nazis" will just have their appetites for biker rights stoked, and hunger for even more. Funny how much this sounds like NRA rhetoric, no?

This argument operates on an assumption that I think is hard to prove. The assumption is that the "safety nazis" have an agenda to totally eliminate motorcycling. I have not seen any convincing proof of that. Has any state ever banned motorcycles? Have there been bills in Congress to eliminate motorcycles? Is there any official DOT, EPA or CalTrans advocating elimination of the motorcycle? Wouldn't motorcycles have been banned a long time ago if that was the case?

The only agenda "safety nazis" have is to reduce injury and death. (Those self-serving bastards!) That's their job. And they are pretty good at it- whether it's helmets or education, motorcycle fatalities per mile traveled has declined since the 1970's. And they understand the law enough to realize that eliminating motorcycles completely would probably come closer to infringing on the kind of rights implicated under the Ninth Amendment.

Rather than "open the door" for more regulation, I feel helmet laws comfort the public at large who, lets face it, have to pay the costs of our enjoyment, whether through hearing our loud pipes, (you know you got 'em!) sport bikes crossing the double yellow lines at them (I know you do it every week!), or paying for increased fire and police protection.(what, you've never gotten an ambulance ride? I've got "frequent flier" miles!) With helmet laws in place, people can look at motorcyclists and say, "well, it's crazy to ride those things, but at least they have helmets on."

If the question comes down to either helmets or motorcycle, I'll pick the motorcycle. I know it's rough to have your life-style choice on display without letting people see your face, but if that's the cost of being left pretty much alone by society, then I'll happily wear my helmet.

Helmet laws are good because they do not abridge any substantial right, save at least money if not lives, and keep society off the backs of motorcyclists. How can any rational person be against it? I don't know, but I'm sure I'll hear all kinds of reasons.
See less See more
Re: Why we need helmet laws

OK, you need to re-read my post, but more carefully this time.

I wrote at great length (for an on-line post) about what makes a right an inalienable one, at least for legal purposes. Not everyone will agree with me, especially not Abe, but it doesn't matter. I'm just the messenger here. This reasoning comes from Supreme Court cases from the 60's and 70's. (Sorry Abe, not 1905)

Sure it would be safer to drive in an SUV. But did I say, anywhere in my post, that I was seeking ultimate safety for all, or advocating full safety gear.

But evidently, you are a black-and-white sort of guy, with no comprimise allowed. Arguing with that mentality is sort of futile, so I'll just sign off.
Oh, fer cryin' out loud...

It doesn't matter what I think. That's the law, whether you or any other person reading this likes it or not.

And extrapolating from your argument, if a right to bodily self-determination isn't a right, than riding helemtless really, really isn't a right.

What you state in the first paragraph of your post is your opinion, not fact. You see the Warren court as an activist court, I see it as a court that FINALLY after 200 years, interpreted the Constitution to benefit those other than white property owners.

Of course, as a white male property owner yourself, you think that the world would be better constructed to YOUR vision, so you condem "Judicial activism." I see it as nothing but justice.

The fifth, second and tenth amendments are alive and well, as far as I understand. There really isn't much preventing me (or you) from owning a rifle, handgun or shotgun. The fifth amandment is alive and kicking as well- just ask your pal Ollie North. As far as the tenth, well, US states have way, way more autonomy than other multi-state nations. Just look at Yugoslavia, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, or whatever. Ask a Chechnayan if he thinks our tenth amendment is interpreted in a way that unduly restricts states autonomy. (After you explain the whole concept of the Bill of Rights, of course, which would be like explaining "Mr. Potato Head" to a starving Rawandan child)

Now, are old Supreme Court opinions less valid because they are from 100 years ago? Yes, if they deal with issues that have changed with the times. I suppose we should re-adopt the holding of Plessy v. Ferguson? Or how about that golden oldie, Dred Scott? Tell Al Gore how your hero non-activist justices like Scalia and Rhenquist don't "interpret the Constitution to mean whatever suits their purposes."

That it took 200 years for the Supreme Court to acknowledge basic human rights like integration, family planning, and freedom from torture and police harrasment is a sad indictment on the racism, class struggle and hypocricy inherent in our culture, not the heroism of justices like Warren and Thurgood Marshall.
See less See more
Re: Back by popular demand....

So what do we do, just leave helmetless crash victims by the side of the road to die? That's how they do things in Russia, Africa, and other places. Sounds great! After a while, the bleached bones by the roadside can be used as handy reflectors to keep the Lexuses of the moneyed, deserving, successful elite from running off the road while they are beating their wives. (Because who are we to interfere with the relationship between man and wife? Unless they want to practice family planning, of course.)

Abe, we take care of the poor and uninsured in this country because people make bad choices,and it's cheaper to treat them house them and feed them than it is to round them up and put them in jail. Did some people behave irresponsibly and "deserve" to live miserably? Sure. But there are many who just got the bad hand from the cosmic dealer. About 20 million children who are in poverty in this country, for instance.

One good way to provide oppurtunity is health care, family planning,and educational oppurtunities, but you're against society providing those things. So what IS your solution? Solyent Green?
See less See more
Re: By the way....

Well, I think we're probably the only ones reading this...It's not very motorcycle related and probably kind of boring.
Re: Here we go....

OK, I did overestimate the number of children under 18 who live in poverty. The actual number is 12.7 million, according to 1998 census bureau figures.

I'm sure you'll discount those figures out of hand, again because of your Rush Limbaugh-fueled assumptions and misconceptions. Just becuase you don't see poverty on TV or in suburban Minnesota doesn't mean it isn't real. I suggeset you do some volunteer work for homeless people to get a more (to quote our president) "akk-arit" picture.

You seem to think all our social problems can be solved via "thousand points of light" private charity. I assure you, they cannot, no more than can private industry build a Space Shuttle, the Golden Gate Bridge, or win World War II. tHe non-profits that I have worked for are uniformly understaffed, underfunded, and overwhelmed by demand for their services they can't handle.

Do I feel "enlightened"? Sometimes I do. When I see homeless families and widespread poverty in my city full of $800,000 studio condos and Range Rovers, I wonder how these people can be so selfish, greedy, and self-absorbed. How much money do you need to to feel good about yourself?

So am I "prejudiced" against rich people? Well, I come from an upper-middle class background, which makes me realize how stupid and undeserving a lot of these folks are. Just as stupid, lazy and undeserving as many poor people, in fact.

Why don't we see COPS from suburban Connecticut? Rich people commit crime, and white-collar crime is far more costly and destructive than violent crime. Rich folks are just less likely to be prosecuted. Does that mean they are "better"?

Your argument is disturbing- If people are poor because they are doing something to make themselves poor, and if a much higher percentage of black and latino people are poor, than the logical conclusion (of your argument) is that white people are innately superior to other ethnic groups, in which case the natural social order is for whites to be the "master" of all the other races. But man, that sounds familiar. Who said that first? Wasn't it some german guy? I can't remember- oh yeah! Adolf something-or-other.

No, government anti-poverty programs cannot solve all our problems, and probably never will. But life would be much, much worse for millions of people without them. Life in the 19th and early 20th century were overwhelmingly worse for poor folks- crime, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, abortion, divorce, and malnutrition were much more severe than now.

I've worked a lot with poor people, and all I can do is reccomend you do the same, and talk to me about social problems then.
See less See more
1 - 6 of 186 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.