If you ride a motorcycle, chances are good you have an opinion on wearing a helmet. In my experience, riders fall into two categories: one doesn’t want the government telling them what to do, and rarely (if ever) do these riders wear helmets. When traveling through states with helmet laws, these riders opt for the bear minimum to avoid getting pulled over. On the other side of the fence are riders, like myself, who wear a full face helmet each and every time we saddle up. Having eaten pavement in a crash, it’s not something I’d care to go through sans helmet.
The option to go helmet-less under all circumstances currently exists in Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire only, but an additional 27 states have only partial helmet laws. These usually require younger riders to wear helmets, while leaving older riders free to choose. Twenty states, plus Washington D.C., mandate the use of DOT approved helmets for motorcycle riders of all ages.
The National Transportation Safety Board is looking to change all this, and has put legislation requiring nationwide helmet use near the top of their wish list for safety improvements. This move follows a recent report showing that motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled in a period (1997 to 2008) where overall highway fatalities declined. Last year showed a reduction in motorcycle fatalities, but this was likely due to an economy-related decline in bikes on the road. Department of Transportation studies show that head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents, so the push for mandatory helmet laws is a logical next step in reducing fatalities.
What’s your take? Are you pro helmet laws or against helmet laws? Do you wear one when you ride? Why or why not?