An interview with the Easyrider (tm)

A Q&A with the Easyrider (tm) regarding mandatory helmet law issues

Q: How long have you been riding motorcycles, Easy?
A: Since 1963. My first car was a bike! I've ridden off road, in competition and of course road touring for virtually all of my live.

Q: So you've been riding for a long time then? Been in many accidents?
A: Surprisingly few and none that I couldn't walk away from. Over the years I've seen some pretty serious accidents and a few that involved fatalities though.

Q: What's kept you safe all of these years? Are you just a lucky kind of guy?
A: Not hardly. The most important safety thing you can do is to drive defensively. This means always being aware of the traffic around you and anticpating that someone in front of you, beside you or behind you might do something stupid so be prepared for it.

Q: Do motorcycle helmets fit into your safety plan?
A: Motorcycle helmets have their place. So do leather jackets, glasses, gloves and heavy boots. I don't go out on my bike thinking, "gee...wouldn't it be fun to crash into something and have tubes hanging out of me for the next 6 Months".

Q: Then why are you so against mandatory helmet laws for Motorcyclists?
A: Well, first and foremost, I am the expert when it comes to motorcycles, not some beaurocrat who's never even been near a bike. And certainly not some Trauma Nurse who's claim to fame results from having treated a handful of motorcycle accident victims in here life. I'm the Expert here and I ought to be the one making the choices about my own safety.

Q: So you don't think that motorcycle helmets prevent injuries?
A: In some cases, I'm sure that they do. In low speed crashes, it's nice to be able to not have to worry about your skull getting shreded while you slide down the highway on your back. In other crash situations, your helmet is more likely to break your neck than to save your skull. Mostly, it's a toss up. The idea is to avoid hitting anything!

Q: But what about all of the statistics that we keep hearing about huge numbers of Bikers getting killed in States where there are no helmet laws?
A: There's no shortage of misinformation out there with regard to what helmets can and cannot do. The fact is that States with helmet laws experience roughly the same injury and fatality rates as States that do not require helmets. The thing that non-Bikers don't seem to understand is that motorcycle accidents must be looked at individually to get an accurate picture.

Q: What do you mean?
A: Well, take the incident recently where a Tennessee State Senator was driving drunk and pulled out in front of a Motorcyclist who clearly had the right of way. The Biker plowed into the side of the Senator's van, fatally injuring the Motorcyclist. The Senator then left the scene of the fatal accident. Does this remind you of anyone who holds public office in Massachusetts?

Q: Was the Biker wearing a helmet?
A: Yes, for all the good it did him. You could be wearing a suit of armor and if you T-bone a car at 50 MPH, you've pretty much had it. This guy was an AMA Member and had been riding motorcycles for decades. But some Drunk Driver put him in a position that he just couldn't get out of and it cost him his life.

Q: What happened to the State Senator who caused the accident?
A: Don't get me started! It looks like he is going to beat it. Must be nice to have friends in high places :(

Q: Do all accidents happen that way?
A: No, and that's my point. Each accident needs to be looked at individually if you want to know what could be done to keep that particular situation from happening again.

Q: OK then, what could be done to keep something like that from happening again?
A: If the State of Tennessee started being a little tougher with Drunk Drivers, that might help!

Q: Suppose that the Biker made it to the Hospital and was still alive. What would the ER and Trauma Doctors and Nurses see?
A: Well, the guy would be a mess, that's for sure! If he was wearing a helmet (which he was), he would have almost certainly broken his neck. If he wasn't wearing a helmet it would depend on how he struck the car to figure what his injuries would be. I've gone over the handle bars a few times and it's usually my shoulders and chest that get's beat up. An experienced Biker would probably try to dump the bike and ride it out rather than hit it head on.

Q: Wasn't the victim in this particular case an experienced Biker?
A: Yes, he was. Without actually being there, I suspect that the Senator cut him off so closely that the Biker had no time to react

Q: OK. That's one accident out of hundreds each year. What about the others?
A: What about them?

Q: Well, it sounds like there is mass carnage out on the roads in States that don't have mandatory helmet laws.
A: No, that's not true at all. In fact, you are three times more likely to die from a toxic substance in your food than you are in a motorcycle accident. [9,000 food related deaths in 1996 per FDA vs 2,230 motorcycle related deaths in 1995 per NHTSA].

Q: So you're saying that motorcycle injuries are a small problem?
A: Very small!

Q: What about these people I see flying down the Sunset, weaving in and out of traffic on crotch rockets, sometimes doing well over 100 MPH?
A: Our Law Makers are never going to be able to legislate intelligence and I wish that they would stop trying. Motorcycles and stupidity just don't mix. Either these new riders quickly grow out of their foolish ways or they will become tomorrow's statistic. You just don't live long riding motorcycles that way. Wearing or not wearing a helmet has nothing to do with it.

Q: So you're saying that inexperienced risk takers are the one's getting into many of the accidents?
A: That's exactly what I am saying. Numberous studies have confirmed that the top 3 causes of motorcycle accidents is inexperience, showing off and driving drunk. Studies have also proven that over half of the motorcycle fatalities Nationwide occur to Riders who have less than 3 years of experience riding a motorcycle.

What does that mean, exactly?
A: What it means is that if society wants to reduce the number of motorcycle accident injuries on our highways, a much better way to go would be to encourage and provide training and education, especially to new Riders

Q: Like Team Oregon does in this State?
A: Yep. Supporting voluntary programs that have been proven to work beats our current "force them to wear helmets for their own good" mentality that seems to exist in many Legislative corners.

Q: Isn't there something un-American about one group of people forcing another group of people to do something that they don't want to do, under the guise of it being for their own good?
A: There sure is! I'm glad you brought that up :)

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Last modified on Monday, April 7, 1997