Helmets—To Use or Not to Use?

June 23, 2008 at 11:25 am 36 comments

Does your state have a helmet law? I’m thinking specifically of motorcyclists.

The great state of Minnesota does not require motorcyclists to wear helmets. And my former home, Pennsylvania, used to have a helmet law and actually repealed it back in 2003. Not surprisingly, head injuries and deaths have risen dramatically.

Being a speech pathologist, I have seen the devastating effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). During my summer internship in the summer of 2002 while I was in graduate school, I helped treat the patients in a special lock-down unit for brain-injured people, many of whom had sustained them riding motorcycles or other ATVs carelessly and/or without a helmet.

I suppose I care about this issue more because of my profession. It really gets me fired up when I see someone weaving in and out of traffic with no helmet. Knowing how quickly and totally their life would change (or end) always affects me.

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36 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Peter  |  June 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    When I lived in Connecticut, Rhode Island had helmet laws while CT did not. The odd part is that legal protection is given to those under 18 whereby under 18 are required to have helmets. People would stop at the border in Westerly, RI and take off their helmets.

    Freedom from not wearing a helmet? Where is the subsequent freedom when you crash at 70 mph. I will have to ask my wife who works with SLPs if they see TBI pts.

    Personal opinion, as I wear a helmet everytime I pedal bike to work, it should be federal law and any such person motorbiking without a helmet will have their endorsement revoked. “I’ve never worn a helmet so I don’t need one…” It take just one time and like you said, it will never be the same…ever.

    28 states have anti-helmet laws. Seat belt laws are more important?

    Good question.

    Reply
  • 2. Noel  |  June 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    BTW, is my bike helmet at your house?

    Reply
  • 3. Jake Meador  |  June 23, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Molly – First time commenter… love the blog. I feel weird saying two people I’ve never met are awesome, but I’ve loved everything I’ve seen here and at 22 Words.

    I live in Nebraska and we do have helmet laws here, but I’m not sure about any of the surrounding states.

    Reply
  • 4. Shannon Archer  |  June 23, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    It sounds completely cold-hearted, but for years I have simply referred to people who don’t wear helmets as “kidney donors”. I think it is arrogant to think that nothing can happen to you because of your skill as a motorcycle driver…besides…you have NO control over everyone else on the road. And I agree…traumatic brain injuries are so much more serious than people realize.

    Reply
  • 5. aaron  |  June 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    We have laws for 14 year olds and under to wear helmets while riding bicycles, but not for adults on motorcycles. It does not make much sense to me.

    Reply
  • 6. shawnda  |  June 23, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I completely agree! Samuel and Keziah pick up on it too! : ) They always say something to the effect of ‘why isn’t that person wearing a helmet? They aren’t being safe!’ And it’s true!! One of my pet peves (is that how you spell that??), no doubt!

    Reply
  • 7. Greta  |  June 23, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Alabama (my state) does have a helmet law as it should!
    We just returned from a trip in PA, and like you mentioned, the law for helmets was repealed. Unbelievable.

    I don’t get it. Why would anyone want to ride around without a helmet? Are they trying to prove something? I would love to hear the reasoning from someone who does.

    Reply
  • 8. Jane Swanson  |  June 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    My son has a TBI due to down hill skiing. So many lives are forever altered because of it. My opinion is that people should wear head protection when involved in these types of activities. Why not? I’d like to think that my son would have worn a helmet if it was required. God is sovereign even so.

    Reply
  • 9. Suzanne  |  June 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    My state (Tennessee) has helmet laws for motorcyclists AND kids on bikes under 16.

    Reply
  • 10. Aaron  |  June 23, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    it’s Kelly. I actually delivered a speech on this when I was in college because I felt very strongly that I should and others should be required to where a helmet. The statistics do say that the majority of people who sustain injuries in motorcycle accidents are lifelong cases of therapy from head injuries that we as taxpayers and fellow insured (motorcycle, that is) pay for it in the long run, somewhere. Although I have not yet seen a dramatic increase in my rate compared to what I have paid in the past here in PA, it is still not as high as in Ohio where they have not been wearing helmets for years. I have had my license for roughly 13 years, and when I witnessed an accident right in front of me, I decided that I would be stupid not to wear one. I guess that is what it comes down to. They can make a law stating that you have to or don’t have to wear a helmet, but if you’re smart, you will wear one anyway. And if it’s a law, it’s better for everyone.

    Reply
  • 11. Bet  |  June 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    We have no helmet law in South Carolina. And it seems motorcycle accidents are up lately—perhaps due to more people choosing to ride to save gas. Doubtless with more motorcycles on the road, more accidents will follow.

    Those here who oppose the helmet laws say they are championing free will and are opposed to the government trying to protect them from themselves. As for me, I’m not adamant that there be a law–but whether there’s a law or not, wearing a helmet is the only choice that makes sense when riding a bike.

    Reply
  • 12. Stephanie G  |  June 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Being from Alabama, I was completely floored when I moved up to MN and saw an organ donor (as they’re referred to in many ERs) weaving in and out of traffic on I-94. He was also going at least 70 mph. I just couldn’t believe it! As an SLP, I have also seen, firsthand, what a TBI can do mentally, not to mention the devastating physical debilities that can come from it. Wear a helmet…if not for you, do it for your loved ones!

    Reply
  • 13. Alison  |  June 23, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    That’s outrageous!! You’re not allowed to ride PUSH bikes without helmets in this country! (Australia) Takes all the fun out of flying down a hill with the wind in your hair, but is probably saving people’s brains …

    (and so, no, you definitely, absolutely can’t ride motorbikes on public roads without one)

    Reply
  • 14. Jane Swanson  |  June 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    The Wisconsin Helmet Law:

    STATUTE:

    Chapter 347. Equipment of Vehicles. Section 347.485. Protective headgear for use on Type 1 Motorcycles. :
    “(1)(a) No person who holds an instructional permit under s. 343.07(4) or who is under 18 years of age may operate or ride upon a Type 1 motorcycle on any highway unless the person is wearing protective headgear of a type which meets the standards established for motorcycle operation in 49 CFR 571.218 and the chin strap is properly fastened.
    “(am) No person may operate a Type 1 motorcycle when carrying a passenger under 18 years of age unless the passenger is wearing protective headgear.”

    Reply
  • 15. Stacey  |  June 23, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    No helmet law here either……..sorry but I don’t want my noggin splattered on the pavement like a big fat watermelon. I have said that it should be interesting how many bike and motorcycle deaths go up now that gas is increasing. Dana said that MANY of his employees are now riding their motorcycles to work. We have had 1 injury and 1 death so far.

    Reply
  • 16. Jenny  |  June 23, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I have always been wary about all the legislation about helmts, seat belts, etc. Not that I have ever championed the non-use of them, not at all… We always wear them and I think it’s foolish not to. It just seems strange to tell someone they have to do something that is to protect them.

    But, anyway, some of the comments above have really made me think – like that Jane’s son would have been wearing one if it had been required. And that people end up paying for the care of injuries that could be prevented with helmet use. good things to make me think.

    Reply
  • 17. Victor P  |  June 23, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Well it depends ….if you drive like this person, then yes i believe helmets are a necessity.

    Reply
  • 18. Abraham Piper  |  June 24, 2008 at 5:35 am

    I love it that the guy in the video Victor points to feels free to go 190 mph, but still uses his blinker to signal a change of lanes.

    Reply
  • 19. Rachel  |  June 24, 2008 at 6:42 am

    I agree — I hate that they don’t have to wear a helmet. It seems absolutely ridiculous to me. You have to wear a seatbelt in an enclosed car, but no helmet to protect your BRAIN on an open road!!!????

    I don’t get it. Good thing Wisconsin still has the law…

    Reply
  • 20. Sunnydaydreame  |  June 24, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I always wear a helmet when I am on a motorcycle and I always wear my seat belt when I am in a car. If you are riding with me, you will wear a helmet on a motorcycle or a seat belt in the car.

    Still, I don’t think it’s any of the governments business whether I wear a helmet or a seat belt. Laws should always err on the side of personal liberty.

    Reply
  • 21. Brian  |  June 24, 2008 at 9:54 am

    I have to chime in on this one as well. I am an occupational therapist and I have the same feelings. Our state (AR) repealed the helmet law a couple of years ago and I have NO idea why.

    If anyone has ever been around someone who had suffered a TBI, I think they would re-think riding motorcycles for one, and definitely re-think the necessity of a helmet.

    Reply
  • 22. Brian  |  June 24, 2008 at 9:56 am

    In addition, in response to Sunnydaydreame’s comment about personal liberty: if someone has a TBI, most likely they become unable to work (at LEAST for a time) and therefore are likely to require health care and/or government assisted programs (such as Medicare/SSI disability, Medicaid, etc.). If that’s the case, it’s the taxpayer’s burden (you and me) to pay for their poor choice.

    I agree about liberty, but if I’m paying for someone’s stupidity then I want a law to prevent such.

    Reply
  • 23. JenR  |  June 24, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I am in CA and there is a helmet law, but motorcycles are allowed to ride on the line in between lanes. I am shocked I have not seen anyone broadsided yet by this dangerous practice.

    i have mixed feelings about helmet laws, mainly b/c I dont like seeing overregulation from the govt. However, I strongly feel that if someone chooses to ride without a helmet, they need to sign a waiver with their motorcycle and health insurance saying that they are forfeiting all monetary compensation and have to pay all medical bills in full if they sustain a head injury while riding w/o a helmet. In that way, I as a taxpayer and insurance payer do not need to pay for someone else’s poor choices. Plus, at least for me, money consequences has a way of enforcing appropriate behavior.

    Reply
  • 24. ED...  |  June 25, 2008 at 5:23 am

    I figure that riding a motorcycle puts you in so much danger that anything you can do to make the experience safer has to be a good thing.

    Reply
  • 25. Chris  |  June 25, 2008 at 5:33 am

    I live in PA where the helmet law was repealed, and found that most people who opposed the law felt that it wasn’t needed because THEY were good drivers. It reminds me of Jack London’s story, To Build A Fire. The man in the story had no imagination and couldn’t imagine any of the unexpected events that led to his death. My friend in high school had a brother who swerved to avoid hitting some kids who ran into the road (and this was not on a motorcycle), hit a tree, and is now paralyzed. People have had heart attacks or seizures while driving. None of these things has anything to do with being a good driver. And then there are the crazy drivers who can get you into an accident even if you are a good driver.

    Also, some of the opponents of the law pointed out accidents where people had neck/spine injuries that caused paralysis or death because they WERE wearing a helmet. People say that about seat belts, too. They point to accidents where people died because they WERE wearing a seatbelt. But the risk of those types of accidents is a lot less. I think often people point to these examples to justify doing what they want to do and basically have their own way.

    This type of logic is used in other matters, as well.

    Reply
  • 26. Liz  |  June 25, 2008 at 6:00 am

    Here’s the scoop at our house – when we are on the motorcycle we wear helmets; ALWAYS! When we are biking, we don’t. Don’t ask me why, we just don’t. However, the madman, Anders, ALWAYS wears a helmet; both while riding his bike or skateboard. Yup – we’re inconsistent!

    Reply
  • 27. robyn  |  June 26, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Forget helmets, the question should be “Why ride a motorcycle?” Helmet or no helmet, they have little chance of surviving any accident. In the past month, I have driven by two horrible motorcycle accidents on fairly low speed roads (35 and 40 mph), one was so bad they closed the street down on both sides.

    When my Dad worked in the ER they would call them “Donor-cycles”.

    But getting back to laws regarding things like this. I think that people should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they wear a helmut. Our government wants control over EVERY aspect of our lives and honestly, it’s a bit frightening. I was listening to one of the democratic candidates on the radio back in March and they were saying things like “I think there should be a law making it mandatory for all men to have to go to the doctor once a year.” This is absurd!! Are we really so incapable of taking care of ourselves? Are we little children?

    Obviously, I believe that helmets are great at preventing brain injury, and I do believe you would have to be an idiot not to wear one biking or motorcycling. But lets not let government be our babysitters and expect them to be our saviors and protectors. We have choices 1) We can decide to be a slightly smarter idiot and wear helmets if we’re going to put our bodies on high speed moving vehicles or 2) we can be complete idiots and not wear them at all.

    And to the argument that it costs tax dollars to care for the #2’s, I disagree with the slim chance of surviving an accident without one. It probably costs more for us taxpayers to pay for the survivors who wore helmets. I like Jen R’s waiver idea.

    Food for thought. Take it or leave it.

    Reply
  • 28. GT  |  June 26, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I my younger days, I lived in Texas. No helmet laws. Sometimes I wore a helmet and sometimes I enjoyed the wind. The thing that convinced me that wearing a helment with a face shield was a good thing was a huge bird. One decided to “spot” me. It was like someone poured paint all over my front side. Luckily It was on a day I was wearing a helmet and face shield.

    Reply
  • 29. BK  |  June 26, 2008 at 8:08 am

    First off, what a schizophrenic people we are: we say we care about bikers not scraping their bald spots off on the pavement, but we fight tooth and nail to make sure that people can have their baby’s skulls punctured with scissors nine months into pregnancy. You take that same baby, birth it, wait fifty years until it has a mid-life crisis and buys a Fat Boy, THEN we want to protect its brain.

    Let’s stop paying for people who do risky things to be protected from the risky things they do. If someone damages his brain by not wearing a helmet, I say he go about with brain damage.

    And churches: get your act together. The Church needs to be providing for these people’s REAL needs as well as tending to the salvation of their soul and the expansion of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ here on the Earth. The government is just a bunch of people, and most of them are pretty dumb. (Not all of them, so don’t get all pissy if you work for the government.) They’re not going to save us from every bad thing that might happen, and they’re certainly not going to advocate for the growth of God’s Kingdom.

    Reply
  • 30. melissa mailly  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Molly~

    This isn’t about helmets… I just wanted to say that I saw you at church on Sunday and you look radiant. 🙂

    Reply
  • 31. salobrena  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:57 am

    I drive a 50cc scooter, and I would not even go 10 feet on it without my helmet. I just know I would fall over and crack my noggin.. In the early days of riding, I had a death trap of a scooter, no back brakes only front brakes..it was a nightmare.. The number of times this 40something body came off the bike without injury is amazing..One consistent thing occurred in every spill, my head always hit the pavement.. no matter how fast I was going..and normally I was not going all the fast.. (the falls always took place as I was slowing down)..Without my helmet, I am sure things would have been worse. I now have a bright shiny new scooter and never come off…unless some thoughtless driver decides to back up over me!

    Reply
  • 32. carissa  |  June 26, 2008 at 10:20 am

    hi! i don’t comment a lot but i love your blog. and i don’t think i’m a stalker, so it’s okay. :]

    i actually had no idea that there were states where people don’t have to wear helmets on motorcycles. in southern california, you’d seriously have a death wish not to wear one on the freeway.

    i didn’t know you were a speech pathologist (why would i, i guess)! that’s so cool.

    Reply
  • 33. lovedbygriffin  |  June 27, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    http://www.statemaster.com/graph/trn_hel_law_mot_rid-transportation-helmet-laws-motorcycle-riders

    This site lists states and helmet laws.

    Reply
  • 34. Travis Seitler  |  July 1, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I would say that one man cannot create a just law which prevents another man from engaging in an activity which could hurt only himself. God could (as we are his property), but a man cannot.

    The problem with enacting these sorts of laws is that we essentially take a position over other people which only God can rightfully claim.

    That said, I always wear my seat belt here in PA, even if I’m in the back seat (adults are only required to wear them in the front seats; at least, that was the law when I last checked). I don’t need laws to know that it’s a good idea. 🙂

    Reply
  • 35. Tonni Geezer  |  July 3, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    I’m from Canada, and helmets are the law… Thank God! My fiance and I hit a deer on the motorcycle last spring, and if not for the helmet (and protective jacket) we’d be in serious trouble… and it was just us and the deer, low speed on a back road… I can’t imagine the effects of high speed and other vehicles… Personally, I think the jackets should be law as well, because what good is your head when you’re heart isn’t beating?
    Great post!

    Reply
  • 36. s.d. smith  |  July 30, 2008 at 7:54 am

    I think you would have to be an idiot to not wear a helmet. That being said, I think it is not a subject a government with sincere care for liberty would consider touching with a ten-foot pole.

    Therefore I vigorously oppose helmet laws, forced smoking bans, and other government-as-nanny provisions that I may or may not personal benefit from in any way.

    Liberty is not always pretty, or smart. But next they ban spanking, wine, etc. You get my drift.

    I like your blog and thank God for your family.

    Reply

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