EZ Rebuts an Oregonian editorial

A recent editorial in the Oregonian implied that there was mass carnage on Oregon's roads before the mandatory helmet law was forced upon Motorcyclists in this State in 1988. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council Statistical Annuals 1979-1994, the fatality to accident ratio in Oregon has consistently run in the range of 4 to 5 fatalities per 100 accidents since 1976. Interestingly, in 1989, the first full year that the mandatory helmet law was in force, the fatality to accident ratio actually INCREASED to 7 fatalities per 100 accidents!

Did the implementation of a mandatory helmet law cause more Motorcyclist's fatalities since it's been in place? Possibly. But just as probable is the fact that we are working with such small numbers here that minor blips in "statistics" should be expected. For example, in years where the weather is warm, more motorcycles will be purchased. More new motorcycles often means more new and inexperienced Riders which in turn may lead to more accidents.

The fact is that roughly 2,300 Motorcyclist's die each year on America's roads (Source - NHTSA). The fatality factor in States that have mandatory helmet laws averages roughly 2 to 3 fatalities per 100 accidents. Not surprisingly, States that do not require the use of helmets experience the same average fatality to accident ratio; 2 to 3 per 100 accidents! Now compare these numbers to the 500,000 Americans who die each year from causes directly attributable to tobacco use (Source - CDC), the 20,000 Americans who die each season from the flu (Source - CDC) or the 9,000 Americans who die each year from toxic substances in the food supply (Source - FDA) and we begin to wonder why the Government is spending millions to "solve" this un-problem.

What's happened here is that the Oregonian has fallen for the filtered, biased and engineered "facts" provided by Government Agencies that have vested interests in protecting their budget. The Oregonian stated," If cyclists could ride bareheaded and not affect the rest of us, we'd be all for them". Well, Mr. Oregonian Editor, that is exactly the case so now that you have the facts, we expect that you'll be a lot more supportive of an Adult American Citizen's right to choose in the future. The mandatory use of motorcycle helmets has not been proven to reduce the already tiny number of Motorcyclists who die each year.

Motorcycle helmets have, however, been proven to cause neck and spinal injuries. Instead of reducing medical expenses as the Oregonian claims, motorcycle helmets significantly increase the cost of caring for Motorcyclists who have to spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair after having their neck broken by a piece of so-called safety equipment that he/she is required by law to wear. If you don't believe it, check into one of the Internet *.motorcycle newsgroups to see who this week's latest quadriplegic charity case is.

The Oregonian quoted Grant Higginson, State Health Officer as saying, "the helmet law saves Oregonians $20 million annually". Repeated requests to the Oregonian, Mr. Higginson and the Oregon Health Department for the facts to support this statement have been ignored. If the State Health Department's "findings" are so reputable and scientifically obtained, why is it that no one is willing to discuss them? The why, of course, is easy. These "facts" are a lot of baloney. They are simply numbers that were made up to satisfy Department Administrators who wanted "facts" to support predetermined conclusions. I challenge the Oregon Health Department to prove that $20MM was spent in any year prior to the mandatory helmet law implementation to care for unhelmeted, head-injured Bikers.

Higginson goes on to say, "If the Oregon helmet law is repealed, Oregonians who have health insurance will end up paying higher insurance premiums as injuries increase". Since there was no mandatory helmet law prior to 1988, did anyone receive a reduction in their health insurance premiums when the law went into effect? I didn't think so. More baloney from a public Bureaucrat.

The issue here is simple, folks. Motorcycle helmets cause more injuries than they prevent. This is a fact. Motorcycle helmets significantly reduce hearing, vision and are heavy and hot to wear. This is also a fact. If you don't believe it, try wearing a motorcycle helmet to the next party you attend and see for yourself!

Motorcycle helmets do not prevent accidents at all and provide little if any safety benefit to Motorcyclists. Even the USDOT cannot agree on what design characteristics are required to manufacture a "safe" helmet! This is because the whole notion that a little fiberglass and a little foam padding can to protect someone's head in a 30+ MPH impact is idiotic. With 35 years of motorcycle riding and many tens of thousands of miles under my belt, I think that I am the expert here, not the Oregonian. My expert opinion is that Rider training, experience, riding sober and simply paying attention prevents accidents and save lives. Mandatory helmet laws are a Society "feel good" smokescreen that only serves to give inexperienced Riders an unjustified feeling of invulnerability.

A highly regarded USC (Hurt Report) study concluded that Riders over 26 years of age and Motorcyclists who have been riding for over 3 years are significantly under-represented in both accident and fatality motorcycle statistics. If the Oregonian and the State Health Department are really interested in saving lives, they should come out strongly in support of projects such as Team Oregon's rider training courses and the good work that the DMV is doing to ensure that riders who obtain motorcycle endorsements actually know what they are doing.

On their own initiative, ABATE of Oregon, a Motorcyclist Rights Organization is pushing HB2453 through the Legislature. Via this measure, Oregon Motorcyclists have volunteered to double the fee that they pay for registering their motorcycles and have asked that the additional money be used to help fund rider training programs in this State. Experienced Motorcyclists see this, not mandatory helmet laws as a way to significantly reduce motorcycle accidents and injury.

You can believe me when I tell you that Motorcyclists are far more concerned about their own safety than the Oregonian or the Legislature is. That's what leather jackets, boots, gloves and eye protection is all about. I wouldn't dream of riding a motorcycle that had questionable tires. And if I really thought that motorcycle helmets would do me any good, I'd voluntarily wear them. Unfortunately, I think that helmets are a menace and since I'm the guy who's going to wind up with the broken neck, I think that I ought to be the one to decide what's safe for me to be wearing. Not the Legislature. Not the Oregonian. And not Governor Kitzhaber who apparently thinks that going down the Rogue River in a rubber raft without a helmet or a lifejacket is perfectly safe. Be sure to check out the cover picture on the State of Oregon phone book showing the Governor doing just that.

We disagree with Governor Kitzhaber's choice in safety equipment for white water rafting just as you may disagree with our choices regarding a sport that we've been involved in for decades. However, we think that the Governor and not the Peanut Gallery ought to be allowed to make those decisions about his own safety (though offhand, we'd guess that white water rafting is slightly more dangerous than riding a motorcycle). We only ask that the Governor, the Legislature and the Oregonian afford Adult Motorcycle Riders the same courtesy.

More information and studies that support this editorial are available at http://www.europa.com/~frankie/laws.htm

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