Letters To The Editor


Donna Warren

July, 2006

From Mike S., Arizona: "Why do motorcyclists fight against laws requiring them to wear helmets and other protective gear? I'd think you would want to be safe from serious injury..."

Well Mike, I'm going to answer your question from my point of view since I am one of those motorcyclist's opposed to "MANDATORY HELMET LAWS". I am also inviting anyone reading this to share your opinions with us by sending your views to spokeswomenmc@hotmail.com

We have mandatory seat belt laws. I don't oppose those laws because there is overwhelming evidence that seat belts can save lives and minimize injuries in over 95% of all accidents. The 5% who are hurt worse or killed because they were wearing a seatbelt are acceptable collateral damage which makes the law reasonable. Remember, nothing is 100% safe.

However, unlike seat belts, helmets may or may not provide protection from serious injury. That is why I oppose their use being mandatory. I do not oppose wearing helmets, I oppose being forced to wear them.

For example, recently Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was hit by a 62-year old woman driving a Chrysler New Yorker who made a left turn into the path of his motorcycle, sending him airborne and to the hospital for seven hours worth of surgery to repair multiple facial fractures, including his jaw and nose.

Newspapers, television and radio reports from coast to coast and around the globe have chastised Ben for riding a motorcycle, and especially for riding without a helmet...some even going so far as to blame him for the accident.

ENOUGH! Ben was riding his motorcycle at the speed limit in a straight path. The women driving the car made a left turn in front of him. SHE CAUSED THE ACCIDENT. The most Ben could have done was try to avoid it if possible.

No amount of safety gear would have prevented this accident...period...

In an interview with Pittsburgh's local CBS affiliate, facial surgeon Guy Catone said that a helmet could have changed the mechanical forces in Roethlisberger's accident, possibly making it worse; "The helmet is heavier and makes your head heavier, so your head travels through the windshield faster, and many patients that have head trauma or neck trauma after a motorcycle accident are ones that have helmets on and have gone through the windshield and fractured the neck so they become totally paralyzed."

“The type of injuries this guy unfortunately had to suffer are of just the sort that we see, at least anecdotally, that often KILL riders who are helmeted,” interjects motorcycle accident attorney Sam Hochberg of the nationwide Aid to Injured Motorcyclists organization. “In certain types of common impacts, it's being without a helmet that can save your life.”

As you can see from the preceding quotes, there is a great deal of disagreement among medical professionals about the advisability of wearing a helmet. Until that debate is settled with hard scientific evidence, wearing them should not be mandatory.

A helmet protects the rider from sanding his head or face off on the highway and protects from rocks and large bugs hitting them in the head while riding. The human brain is suspended inside your skull held up by a "net" made up of supporting tissue. Brain damage is caused when an individual's head suddenly stops and the brain slams into the side of the skull that hit something and then bounces back and slams against the other side of the skull. Sort of like and internal version of whiplash. Noting that you can put on the outside of your head can protect your from brain from this kind of injury if you slam your head against a stationary object...period.

The weight of the helmets available today, can cause serious head and neck trauma if you become a flying projectile after an accident. I have a friend whose helmet broke his neck on the side and put him in a wheel chair for life.

I used to ride motocross and do hill climbing when I was in my 20s and I wore knee, elbow, chest protectors and a cervical collar in addition to a helmet then. I chose to wear the gear because the probability of going down was so much higher. I wore the cervical collar because of the problem of the helmets being too heavy. I made my children wear the same kind of protective gear when they rode dirt bikes for the same reasons and, of course, they were required to wear them when they raced.

I have absolutely no problem with wearing protective clothing and other safety gear. I just believe that, as an adult, I should have the right to decide which risks I'm willing to take.

By the way, I used to go down approximately once a month when I was hill climbing and three or four times a year in motocross. I went down on the roadway for the third time in approximately 300,000 miles of street and highway riding this month. I'm still a little skittish riding my bike and still sore but that doesn't change my views on mandatory helmet laws.

This site lists the current helmet laws in the US. http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/helmet_laws.html

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