Easyrider's mandatory helmet
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Please note that while I am a member of several State and National Motorcyclists' rights organizations, I am speaking here for myself and not as a representative or a spokesperson for any Group or Organization.
Government forcing Citizens to do what's "best
for them"is Un-American!
Thoughts written down by the original Easyrider(tm), Biker and all around great guy for lo these past 50 years...
In Vietnam (remember them? That's the Country where 64,000 Americans died trying unsuccessfully to bring freedom to them) it is legal to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. in a truly surreal state of affairs, the U.K., an ostensibly free albeit socialist country is trying to convoince communist Vietnam that instituting mandatory helmet laws would be a good idea. Even more surreal is the fact that the Vietnam government is resisting doing this because they don't want to enrage the public who are vehimently anti-helmet law! Are Americans a bunch of pussies or what?
Here's some great social burden legislation for you
Heart disease and other serious medical problems caused by improper diet costs American taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Because of this serious taxpayer burden and the fact that many Americans are simply too ignorant to do what's best for them, the Government is going to close down all Fast Food restaurants... eating greasy, salty or otherwise unhealthy foods will become illegal. Afterall, Government is concerned about your safety and since you are apparently too dumb to do what's best for you....
500,000 Americans die each year due to direct or indirect exposure to tobacco smoke. The costs to taxpayers to provide medical care for these people runs in the billions of dollars each year. Since many Americans are too ignorant to realize that smoking or chewing tobacco is a serious health hazard, the use of these materials will be made illegal. These people ought to be forced to do what's best for them because their bad choices cost American Taxpayers so much money! Afterall, Government is concerned with your safety and you are apparently too dumb to do what's best for you....
Alcohol use results in the death and injury of hundreds of thousands of American Motorists each year. Alcohol abuse costs American Taxpayers Billions in additional medical care required by people who are too ignorant to make sensible choices about their lifestyle. We've heard from surgeons who can tell you first hand just how awful a liver looks after being subjected to years of alcohol abuse. Why, deaths and serious injury would be reduced by 217% if alcohol use were outlawed. Afterall, Government is concerned with your safety and you are apparently too dumb to do what's best for you....
Skiing, parachuting, homosexual practices, riding in taxicabs, climbing ladders, walking down the street, etc., etc. all increase the likelihood of death, injury and associated costs to the taxpayers. Afterall, Government is concerned with your safety and since "we" are required to pay more money as a result of your ignorant choices, we have a right.... no, a DUTY to force you to quit doing what you're doing. Afterall, Government is concerned with your safety (at least when they aren't sending you off to War to get your tits blown off to protect America's supply of asparagus).
Sound preposterous?... to me, having Government tell me that I have to wear a motorcycle helmet "for my own good" is just as un-American as me telling you that I'm going to deny you your right to eat a Big Mac "for your own good".... for damned sure, those Big Macs will put you in a hospital long before not wearing a helmet will do the same to me.
"Benefits" that Government mandates can and
Now that I've illustrated just how idiotic and Un-American mandatory helmet laws appear to me, I hope that we can all agree on at least a few items that may shed some light on the hype and misinformation being thrown around by some.
For example, I don't think that anyone would claim that helmets prevent accidents. Being a completely passive device, there is no way that they could!
We can probably also agree that one can see and hear better without a helmet on than with. If you question this, put on a helmet at a party full of people and see how much your hearing and vision is attenuated. You'll also note that it's heavy and that you will begin to tire quickly with it on your head.
I think that we can all probably agree that crashing into something is not a fun way to end a pleasant ride. Avoiding crashing into things ought to be the number one objective of anyone who is interested in highway safety, right?
Can we agree that one group of people forcing their will on another group of people under the guise of being "concerned about their safety" is about as Un-American an activity as you can get?
Can we agree that the vast majority of people who are in the Pro helmet law camp do not ride motorcycles, have never ridden motorcycles and know virtually nothing about motorcycle riding?
Can we agree that both sides of this issue are fully able to pony up hours of "horror stories" that graphically illustrate their points? Can we further agree that both sides of this issue present as "facts" selective and filtered "statistics" that are far from scientific, are incomplete and are blatantly biased?
Can we agree that mandatory helmet laws are an emotional issue that pits an American's freedom to choose against American Corporate and Beaurocratic interests?
Can we agree that implementing mandatory helmet laws have never resulted in a reduction of insurance premiums or a reduction in taxes?
I hope that we can all agree that even without a mandatory helmet law, Motorcyclists are free to wear whatever safety equipment suits them, including helmets. In fact, it is widely accepted that 1/3 to 1/2 of all Motorcyclists wear helmets even when not required to. Obviously, these folks feel safer when they are wearing a helmet. It is not for me to criticize their decisions as much as I feel that it is not someone else's right to unilaterally countermand my decisions.
Mandatory helmet laws have less to do with safety
than you might think
In the "you may not be aware of this if you are not a Biker" column, OSP routinely pulls over and cites Motorcyclists who are wearing "unapproved" helmets. This is known as "probable cause" and gives Law Enforcement license to pull over Motorcyclists at will in the hopes of finding other, more serious offenses.
In Oregon, the status of helmets being approved or unapproved rests entirely with the Officer who pulls you over. Unlike many States, having a clearly visible DOT sticker on your helmet will NOT prevent you from being stopped, ticketed and having your helmet impounded in Oregon. There are no rules, no guidelines, no standards to test against. Well, there are, but OSP apparently feels that they can ignore these standards... I wear a DOT approved Marusin half shell helmet that is virtually identical and probably more expensive than those worn by Portland and OSP Motor Officers. Yet I have been stopped and harassed by OSP on several occasions where they claimed that my helmet was not legal.
Sidebar: Even though DOT approved, NHTSA is actively trying to make the use of half shell helmets illegal. In case the irony of all of this hasn't hit you yet, NHTSA is a Department of the US DOT!
What can you do about all of this?
Oregon's current Governor, John Kitzhaber, a self-proclaimed "individualist", has vowed to veto any attempts to remove the mandatory helmet law. He uses as his justification his experience as an ER Doctor where he presumably treated one or two motorcycle related head injuries that he feels could have been reduced had the victim been wearing a helmet. For this, he is prepared to deny hundreds of thousands of Oregonian Motorcyclists their right to choose.... the same right that the Governor routinely exercises for himself in his personal, non-motorcycle related hobbies and undertakings. Perhaps the Governor's position might modify if no one were allowed to descend Mt. Hood on skis without wearing a helmet, 20 pounds of protective padding, leg and ankle braces and solid plastic face protectors. I also think that skiers should be required to carry air horns which must be sounded for at least 5 seconds every 15 seconds for as long as Skiers are in motion (for their own safety as well as for the safety of other skiers, of course!)
If you are in the position of being able to influence the destiny of a mandatory helmet law, I hope that you will consider how much you personally know about the subject and how much you can really trust the "facts" that you are seeing or hearing and how much you can trust the people who are providing this information. Please make your decision based on accurate knowledge and not on hype, hysteria or instinct. The most important factor that you need to consider though is this: Do the American people exist to do the will of Government or does American Government exist to do the will of the people?
Governor Kitzhaber exercising his freedom of choice to white water raft without wearing a helmet or a flotation device. Of course Governor Veto is way smarter than all of us dumb Bikers, right?
Easyrider Homepage Last modified on Friday, April 4, 1997