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Helmet Laws Suck

30124 Views 113 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  Kenneth_Moore
Suggesting that riding without a helmet is a good idea is, in most circles, about as popular as proposing a “Crack for Kids” program at the local School Board meeting. People get pretty agitated, and tend to think you’re out to undermine the very foundation of society. Regardless of that, I think riding without a helmet can be worth the risk, and I want to say so. If your mind is made up, you might as well skip the rest of this rant and move on. If you want to talk about it, I’d enjoy hearing your opinions.

I literally grew up wearing helmets. They were mandatory in Florida long before I could ride a motorcycle, legally or otherwise. The first bike I rode was a Honda 150 back in 1968; I used to borrow it from a friend and ride it around the neighborhood at the age of 12. I always borrowed the guy’s helmet too. About 4 years later I got my first tickets on two wheels when I borrowed a guy’s moped and rode it down a dirt road at a park. The cop decided to teach me a lesson and wrote me for no helmet, no license plate, no turn signals, and no registration. That incident clearly set the stage for my future relationship with the Florida DMV, but that’s another rant.

Not long after that incident, I got my first real bike, a Yamaha RD-350 in black and orange. The guy I bought it from gave me the standard helmet of the day, open front with the three snaps across the top to secure a face shield. I think it was purple with metal flake. I bought this goofy bubble-shaped hard plastic shield in yellow, which for some reason I thought was really cool. Not long after that, I got to borrow my friends Bell full-face helmet (back in those days Bell was synonymous with full-faced helmets, at least with the guys I hung out with) and from that point on, that’s what I wore. Eventually I settled on Shoei, and always got white ones to try to keep the heat down. And, in fact, when I do wear a helmet these days, that’s what I still wear.

As the years went by, I was peripherally aware of ABATE, the nationwide anti-helmet law organization. Originally their initials stood for “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments,” but once the 70’s were over they toned it down to “American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.” Or something like that depending on what state you're in. They had fund raising events, lobbied the Legislature and Governor, and had an annual ride to Tallahassee to try to get the helmet law repealed, or at least modified. Back in the summer of 2000, they finally succeeded. The law wasn’t repealed, but it was changed to allow riders over 21 to ride without a helmet as long as they had a special $10,000 medical insurance policy to cover the cost of stuffing their brains back in their heads after an accident. Two interesting notes here: nobody could find any insurance company that offered this policy, and nobody could clearly explain what the heck this caveat really meant, so de-facto, the clause was meaningless. The other interesting side note is ABATE. Not long after the law was passed, I met a member handing out flyers for another fund raiser at one of the local motorcycle parts stores. When I asked what the heck they were collecting money for since they’d won, she looked confused and said: “well, they may change their minds!” Frankly, I think she was simply proving the “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” which essentially states that no matter what an organization is formed for initially; eventually its purpose becomes its own continuation, growth, and the aggrandizement of its leadership.

When the new law was announced, I said to myself and others that I’d never ride without a helmet. I reasoned that it would be pointlessly risky, and I didn’t want to end up a vegetable, disfigured, or dead. But it didn’t take too long before “it” happened. I tasted the forbidden fruit. I’ve forgotten exactly when, where, or why I wound up riding without a helmet, but I did. I loved it. I didn't want to wear a helmet any more.

I decided to try a small helmet instead of a full-face one to see if I could get the same feeling I had with no helmet. It was better, but still not the same. The only downside I found was the rain. I cannot ride without a helmet and face shield in the rain, it just hurts too much. I’ve always worn earplugs when I ride, so the wind noise without a helmet is manageable.

I don’t always ride without a helmet. In addition to rainy conditions, I usually wear a helmet during commuting hours, long trips at high speeds, and when it’s cold out. But last night I took a ride under the stars without, and I will say this: for me, that ride without the helmet was far more enjoyable than it would have been with. I can’t explain it, any more than I can explain to a cager why I take the risks of riding a motorcycle at all, versus just getting in the car. And, as I rode along last night, I decided to write this and share my thoughts.

So, here it is: I suggest that if you ever get the chance, take off your helmet and give it a try. If you’ve never done it, you might be surprised. And if you splatter your brains all over the highway, don’t blame me. It is, after all, just a suggestion. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, “a zest for living requires a willingness to die.”

PS: I suspect my fun will end soon. I can’t imagine this society of ours allowing this type of individual choice for too much longer. Frankly, I was stunned when the law was repealed. I'm sure the Feds will link mandatory helmet laws to highway funding or something.
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How about other forms of social responsibility. So you aren't for Aid to Dependent children, welfare, unemployment paychecks, food stamp, etc.? You are an 'everybody pay their own way' guy? I'm all for it. Those programs cost us a hell of a lot more than injured motorcyclists. I never collected a dime on ANY social program, but I sure as hell paid a hell of a lot of money into them. When is it my time to collect?
Well, hopefully it's never your time to collect. While I don't like giving away my money to a system that I can't affect, I do believe that social programs are necessary to maintain a civilized nation. If you think there are crime problems now, see what happens when there's no security net for people who loose their jobs, homes, family, etc. Is the system abused? Of course. Is the system run effectively and efficiently? Highly unlikely. Can it be better? Absolutely. But it is necessary. And hopefully you'll never need to get your turn to use it.
Kenneth- The term "Less Fortunate" is a joke. There are very few cases were this should apply, if at all. You, me and everyone here make our own way. If a person grows up to be "Less Fortunate" they did not make the choices in life to lead to a life that they are happy with. Is that Less Fortunate or stupidity? I've spend most of my life making very little money because of past mistakes in my steps of life. I'm not Less Fortunate. I was irresponsible (or stupid). Now, I'm 41 and have had ACE for 8yrs. I'm less irresposible now. I made a decision to go back to school (at 30) and get my insurance license. I'm not at the stage where I can say I'm well off, but I'm WAY better off than a decade ago. Less Fortunate wasn't something I depended on and NO ONE else should, for that matter.
No one? Surely you don't mean that not a single person has been put into positions of need by forces outside of there control. What about the people who lost everything in disasters like Katrina? Hard working homeowners who all of a sudden had no home, no job, and a family to take care of. What about the middle class family where mom stays home to take care of the kids (only 2) so has no "career" and her husband all of a sudden dies? Now she has no income and a family to take of, all by herself. I won't even suggest that he died of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident because he wasn't wearing a helmet...

I realize this isn't what you meant, but my point is that there are people - and probably lots of them - who truly do need assistance for a time, and not because they're lazy or stupid.
Natural Disater is not an excuse for "sponging" tax payer money. More waist happend with that (Katrina) than any other disaster (9-11 included) in US history. As for the family referrence: If Dad (or Mom) is a dumb ass, uneducated or will only work a part time job- it is all still no excuse for abuse. You always have a fall-back plan. The system should only be there for temporary help. That's it. It's not my job or anyone elses to make sure tax payer money helps people for extended amounts of time. Katrina victims should have bucked up and started over. They whined instead. If this same Hurricane happened in the '30s people would have picked up and moved on. We (compassionate people) decided to let our gov't throw millions of tax-payer monies at this situation and it was abused. Do Floridians do this- not on that scale (ask Kenneth Moore, he's from there). Step-up, help yourself or loose out. That cut and dry. Sorry this all sounds so mean but after 10yrs (before my insurance career) of being a bail bondsman and bounty hunter (no- it's not like DOG) you take no on compassion for the truly inept. I had to deal with ignorance for too long in that job. We're surrounded by the un/under-educated (thank gov't schools) and they think we owe them- SCREW THEM. Make your own way or get out of the way.
I agree that people shouldn't be on the taxpayers' teet for long periods of time. But why shouldn't the government and citizenry help those who have fallen become contributing members of society again? This isn't the 30's, and why should we have to live like it is? Just because our ancestors were able to live in caves, hunt, forage and live without On Demand doesn't mean we should now.

Again, I don't think the system as it stands now is anywhere near perfect. That doesn't mean that the idea of it isn't valid or that it should be eliminated.

Oh, and wear your helmet...
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