Helmet Law FAQ
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Living in a free Country should be reason enough to not be forced by Government to wear one...


Q:  Helmets save thousands of lives!  Why don't you want to wear one?

A:  This is the myth that is at the heart of why we oppose mandatory helmet laws.   Motorcycle helmets have never been proven to do anything more than cause accidents and break Rider's necks.  Consider this fact:  the fatality to accident ratio in States that do not require helmet usage is virtually identical to that of States that do.   In fact, in Oregon, the fatality to accident ratio nearly doubled for the first few years that the mandatory helmet law was in force.  Twelve years later, fatalities in Oregon are now starting to normalize with other States that do not require helmet usage.

Q:  But the Government says that thousands of lives will be saved if freedom of choice States force Riders to wear helmets.  Why would the Government say something that was untrue?

A:  Why, indeed?  Just as president Clinton was lying through his teeth when he claimed that he did not have sex with "that woman", the NHTSA has been playing fast and loose with the "facts" for years.  The true fact is that helmet use does not effect the outcome of motorcycle crashes in the vast majority of instances.  This comes directly from the Fatal Accident Research Study (FARS), a database of information that is collected from Police Officers who file reports on motor vehicle accidents throughout the USA.  FARS is widely agreed to be the most complete and comprehensive accident data gathering mechanism in the Country.

Q:  I don't understand.  How can a motorcycle helmet not increase Rider safety?

A:  This is a common misconception among those who have never ridden a motorcycle.  Even the NHTSA acknowledges that motorcycle helmets are only effective in a narrow band of accident situations.  For example, let's say that a Police Officer is speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road and hits a Motorcyclist head on.  The chances of surviving this accident are pretty slim, helmet or no helmet.   And, in fact, the Motorcyclists who was hit head on by a Pennsylvania State Trooper in the Spring of 1998 was wearing a helmet and died anyway.  Like many motorcycle accidents, this one was not the fault of the Motorcyclists, was completely avoidable and yet helmet usage played no part whatsoever in the accident survival picture.

Q:  Motorcycle helmets don't save thousands of lives a year?

A:  Not according to any reputable, independently commissioned or scientific study, they don't.  In 1997, 2,099 Motorcyclists died in the US.  To put this number in perspective, during the same period, 5,300 Pedestrians were killed.  16,000 people died of drug overdoses, primarily heroin.  100,000 people in America died of causes directly attributable to alcohol.  500,000 people in America died of causes directly attributable to cigarette smoking.  In Oregon alone, over 700 people died last year as a result of second hand cigarette smoke! Compare that to the 2 dozen or so  Motorcyclists who died during that same period (exact numbers aren't in yet)... and, as explained earlier, most would have still been dead even if they were wearing a suit or armor. 

Q:  We're forcing 60,000 Oregon Motorcyclists plus all of the Bikers who come to the State to spend Tourist/vacation dollars to wear helmets even though helmets do nothing to improve rider safety?

A:  Yep.

Q:  That's insane

A:  No, that's your Government taking away your freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Q: The Government is just trying to help, aren't they?

A:  Based on their track record, I would say that the Government is mighty selective about their concern.  The Government certainly had no problem sending 60,000 young men to their deaths in Vietnam, which is more people than have been killed on motorcycles in the US since motorcycles  were invented.  The Government spends tens of millions of dollars each year to fight helmet repeal efforts Nationwide even though motorcycle fatalities make up only a tiny fraction of deaths in the USA.

Q:  But what about the cost to Taxpayers to care for Motorcyclists who are injured?

A:  What costs?  Motorcyclists *are* Taxpayers!  Isn't this "cost to the Taxpayers" the reason that the Government gave to force us to buy insurance?   I have 5 vehicles registered in this State.  Each of them carries personal insurance protection (PIP) or optional medical coverage yet I can only drive one vehicle at a time.  5 duplicate and unnecessary insurance premiums, each to ensure that there is no "cost to the Taxpayers", thanks to Government edicts.  Don't you think Motorcyclists are already paying more than their share?  Just how much profit do Insurance Companies need, anyway?

Q:  But the Government says that it will cost millions to care for injured Motorcyclists if the mandatory helmet law is repealed.

A:  Yes, they do say that, don't they?  Unfortunately, they don't have one iota of fact to back it up with.  The Oregon Health Department was unable to produce a single name of anyone who has ever required Taxpayer support as a result of riding without a helmet even though Oregon had no helmet law for almost it's entire history as a State.

Q:  But the Oregonian reported that repealing the helmet law will cost Taxpayers $2 Million per year.

A:  I know that.  The Oregon Health Department gave this "information" to the Legislature in the 1997 session and also to the Oregonian who blindly printed it without verifying the accuracy of these statements.  Come to find out, the $2MM number was the result of an ESTIMATE made by the State of California and then modified to fit Oregon demographics.  In other words, the $2 MM figure was pulled right out of the air.  This is pretty typical of the lack of investigative study that goes into "reports" that go to our Law Makers.  Legislators think they are getting accurate data because it comes from a Government Agency, but this is simply not so!  And it's my tax money that is being used to produce these lies that are used against me.  Nice, huh?

Q:  I don't get it.  Why would Government want to force people to wear safety equipment that didn't increase safety?

A:  Well, for one thing, mandatory helmet laws give the Police one more reason to discriminate against Bikers.

Q:  If you're wearing your helmet, the Police won't bother you, right?

A:  Wrong!  The Police routinely stop Motorcyclists who are wearing helmets that are clearly marked with DOT stickers all the time.  An Officers "opinion" that a helmet may be illegal has been used as probable cause to stop, interrogate and search Motorcyclists in Oregon for years.  ABATE has won a law suit against the OSP for this type of harassment, but stops by local PD jurisdictions in Oregon are still common.

Q:  Well, if you aren't doing anything illegal, why do you mind being stopped by the Police?

A:  Because we are living in the United States of America and not in Communist China, that's why!  Would you mind being arrested after being stopped in your Lexus for not having a State approved litter bag in your car?

Q:  What?

A:  The same Law Makers who want to force us to wear ineffective safety equipment on our heads also think it is a great idea to criminalize the act of driving without a State approved litter bag in your car.  Drive without one in Washington State and find out.  Or, just keep electing safetycrats who think forcing people to wear helmets against their will is a good idea and we'll have our very own litter bag law in Oregon before too long.  In case you hadn't noticed, Government is out of control.

Q:  Out of control?

A:  Absolutely!  It used to be that Government would take away my rights as a Biker and few people would care because they don't ride motorcycles.   And maybe they don't like Motorcyclists very much.  Then they'd take away some rights from gun Owners and most people wouldn't care because they don't own guns.   And maybe they don't like gun Owners very much.  Then they'd take away rights from people who own dogs, but most people wouldn't care because they don't have any dogs.   And maybe most people don't like dogs.  Pretty soon, everyone has lost a lot of rights and freedoms and all because it was happening to "the other fellow".   Listen up!  any loss of liberty to any group lessens all of our freedoms.   Freedom to do and think and say anything you want so long as it's what the Government wants you to do and think and say isn't freedom at all.  It's tyranny.   And tyranny, in case you aren't up on your history, is what the United States of America was created to get away from in the first place!

Q:  So helmet use is a matter of choice to you?

A:  Absolutely!  I don't encourage or discourage the use of helmets.  If someone feels safer riding with one on, that's fine with me.  My objection is being forced to wear a piece of so-called safety equipment that my 35 years of motorcycle riding experience says is more of a detriment to my safety than a benefit.

Q:  I've heard that motorcycle helmets cause accidents, but that's hard to believe.

A:  Believe it!  Try this little test.  Put on a full face helmet (don't forget that really cool face shield), get in your car and try backing out of your driveway.  Before you go 10 feet, you will understand why helmets cause accidents.

Q:  I'll do it, but save me the suspense.  What's going to happen?

A:  First of all, your peripheral vision will be nothing but a memory.   You'll find it very difficult to turn your head far enough to be able to see behind you.  Most Motorcyclists wearing helmets have to use their mirrors exclusively to see what's beside them and behind them.  You'll also lose most of your hearing.  I wouldn't recommend wearing a helmet when backing out of a driveway where there are children around because you will not be able to hear them.  You also better back up quickly because until you learn how to breathe differently, you will almost instantly fog up your face shield.  Oh, and then there is the weight and general discomfort of wearing a helmet.  Should you decide to ride around the block with your helmet still on, you will notice that you start to fatigue quickly.

Q:  OK... so you can't see and you can't hear and you tire easily when wearing a helmet.  Does that really cause Motorcyclists to have accidents?

A:  Perhaps not.  But ask anyone who's ridden for more than a year or two about his favorite "hornet flew inside his helmet" story.   Those are always good for a laugh, especially when you are heading down a busy Interstate at 65 MPH!  Helmets save lives my ass!


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Last modified September 8,1998
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