Given a certain outcome, info on whether or not the rider was wearing a helmet gives the reader some indication of the violence of the crash. A knowledgeable reader might inquire about other gear, such as the appropriate armored boots, etc.
To the non-riding public, seemingly the only issue relevant to motorcyclists is whether they must be forced to wear helmets. Journalists are just helping the public and lawmakers keep score before the next round of helmet laws are debated.
You weren't suggesting that journalists covering motorcycle accidents actually think were you?
The general public believes that if the rider wasn't wearing a helmet, then he deserved his fate, regardless of fault. If he WAS wearing a helmet, well then he just kind of deserved it. Wearing a helmet in my state is optional, so it should make zero difference if there was one worn or not, but the same thing gets reported here. It's just like when they raid houses for drugs. The news always mentions if there were guns found. They never say if the guns were legally owned, but it makes the perp apper guilty to the general public. If they DO find drugs, they ALWAYS show the guns sitting next to them. Subtle, but effective mind shaping.
The only difference, is that it is illegal not to wear your seatbelt in any state in the country. There are many states that do not have helmet laws, and therefore the accident victim was not breaking any law by not wearing one. So to mention it is as useless as saying he didn't have a jacket or boots on.
The same goes for car accidents and robberies. Seems someone wasn't wearing his seatbelt or that a black, hispanic, etc. did the dirty deed. Reporters are taught to get some sort of detail and those are easy details to get.
I will probably be proved wrong, but my opinion is that the single most important factor whether or not you survive a crash on a motorcycle is wearing a helmet or not wearing a helmet;however, I still think it should be the drivers option.
Just the same, most newpaper articles around here always mention if car accident victims were wearing a seat belt or not.
The only "interest they are serving" in reporting helmet use is an interest in giving readers basic, relevant information about accidents. As other posters pointed out, accident stories about cars usually report seat belt use. Most accident stories include information about alcohol or drug use, if that was a factor.
Sorry, but there's no conspiracy.
(Full disclosure: I've been involved in newspaper journalism as a reporter, editor or educator for 35 years, and riding motorcycles since 1958.)
I don't feel like the reporters have any agenda, that's simply the question most viewers would ask; just like others mentioned, it's just like the question of "were they wearing their seatbelts?" or "were they drinking?"...
I think you're on to something there- maybe it's basic to the social structure:
Did these other monkeys (who might be like me) you are telling me about climb too far down the tree trunk and torment the jaguar that ate them (did they DESERVE their fate, as they were more stupid than I)?
Sigh. The general public may think riding motorcycles is risky, but I wish I were reckless enough to talk on a cellphone while driving a two-ton vehicle that's running on tires whose pressure hasn't been checked since the last oil change, four months ago...
In 35 years in the newspaper business I bet I've written only one or two motorcycle crash articles. It's just the luck of the draw--somebody besides me was walking past the editor's desk when the story was being assigned.
How-some-ever, in every crash story (I don't like to use the word "accident" because they usually aren't), a reporter wants to learn as many as possible of the factors that contributed to the crash and the death, which might include alcohol, speed, road conditions, seat-belt use, the type of vehicle, traffic conditions and, of course, whether a biker was wearing a helmet.
Sometimes helmet use is relevant, sometimes not. If a helmeted rider dies in a 100 mph crash against a bridge abutment, a crash investigator might say "His head was fine but..."
A properly done news article will distinguish between risk factors that are not within the driver's control, like suddenly-appearing road hazards, and factors that are, like speed, drug/alcohol impairment, seatbelt use and of course helmet use.
Someone with a perverse sense of justice, and that includes some reporters, may feel that an un-helmeted or drunk driver "deserves" the consequences of his/her actions. In our saner moments, however, we are attempting to chronicle the circumstances that produced a result.
RIDE SAFE everybody! I don't want to write about you unless you're running for mayor.
I am always hearing on the TV news if people are or are not wearing a seat belt in accidents. maybe the same is true for news about us on bikes. It is just another detail. (I am near Raleigh, NC and the WRAL link is for a recent local accident.) The local TV stations report about seat belt usage here as well as helmets for motorcyclists.
The interest being served depends on one's perspective. For the general non-riding public, many of whom think you're crazy for getting on a bike in the first place, the no helmet detail serves to excentuate the already perceived recklessness. To riders who are pro helmet (I'm from Canada, it's the law, I also only ride fully suited so call me "Pro"), it provides details that are of interest in assessing the crash from riders viewpoint "the could it have happened that way to me". From the perspective of someone who believes helmets should be optional, well, no purpose is served other than to potentially reinforce conspiracy theories, and maybe further the view about not heeding what "the man" wants. That all said my opinion is, for the most part this is simply a "shake your head, it didn't have to end up this way" detail. It's like hearing about deaths in a housefire and then reading there were no working smoke alarms. You can't be sure it would have saved them, but deep down you know it very well might have.
I have also noticed that in any workplace accident report that makes the news (usually if it involves a death) they report whether OSHA rules were being followed and or if any safety features (lock-out tag-out etc.) were bipassed. It's pretty normal to report such stuff.
Kinda like when someone gets murdered we always hear about what race the victim and suspect were. Just ways to shape our mind and people that want to make laws want us to wear helmets. Why? Reduces medical costs and life insurance payout for insurance companies. If it is a law dealing with the road, you can bet 100 to 1 that an insurance company lobby pushed it into place.
I just want to say that when a police car is running with siren and lights, they are usually going fast, and it is common for them to be involved in accidents. My brother had to stop short once to avoid a speeding police car, and it broke the brakes on his '69 Baracuda.
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