Motorcycle Helmets: Freedom Or Safety?
Looking from the outside in, the helmet debate that takes place in motorcycle circles doesn’t seem to make sense. A helmet is just one safety precaution, but wearing one reduces your chances of dying in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent and your chance of getting a brain injury by 67 percent. Wearing a helmet to prevent brain damage seems like a no-brainer, and since drivers have to wear seat belts in cars, why not require motorcyclists to wear helmets?
The History Of The Debate
Back when motorcycles first started showing up, helmets were rare and not very effective but speeds were low. However, these speeds were still enough to cause fatalities: one infamous incident happened in 1935 when T. E. Lawrence, the man who would later be known as “Lawrence of Arabia,” died after he crashed his motorcycle and sustained a head injury that would leave him in a coma for six days.
As motorcycles grew in speed, so did the number of fatalities. Still, motorcyclists didn’t like the way helmets looked and so they’d refuse to wear them just because of fashion even after newer and more effective designs hit the market. It wouldn’t be until 1966 that America would pass a federal bill that encouraged states to pass mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, and even then the federal law got repealed in 1975. So while almost every state required motorcycle helmets in 1974, today only 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws.
The groups that oppose mandatory helmet laws offer more arguments than just ones about fashion, and these points have something to do with why states have scaled back helmet laws even as they strengthen seat belt laws.
- Riding a motorcycle is a lot more dangerous than driving a car, and that’s true no matter how much safety gear you’re wearing. Air bags don’t really work, two wheels have less traction than four, the motorcyclist is out in the open while the car driver is in a steel box, and seatbelts are a bad idea since you would end up scraping along the road with one leg stuck under the bike.
- While helmets have a very real impact on fatalities and brain injuries, they aren’t much help against the serious injuries that happen to your arms, legs, and spine. Helmets might even cause additional neck injuries, although that’s still preferable to severe brain trauma.
- Helmets may encourage riders to take more risks since they feel protected, although that same argument is made about safety systems in cars when the total number of collisions and traffic deaths is on a long-term decline.
- Inexperience has a bigger impact on the likelihood and severity of a motorcycle accident than helmets, but then that’s also true about other vehicles.
The Legal Issues
Something else worth noting about helmet laws is that they can have an impact even after an accident happens. In a state like Florida, helmets are required until you reach 21 years of age, and after that all you need is the standard PIP auto insurance policy. However, other states require helmets on everyone, and this requirement is often ignored by bikers passing through.
This can be an issue after an accident because an insurance company can use your lack of a helmet against you and turn it into a reason not to give you a full settlement. After all, you chose not to give yourself some easily available protection, and so your brain injury is at least partly your own fault. An insurance company can make this argument in Florida, but it’s worse in a state like Georgia where you have to break the law to not protect your head.
At times like this, it can help to have an expert negotiator on your side. In southwest Florida, that means the personal injury attorneys at , Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh. We help people injured in auto and motorcycle accidents get the settlements they need to pay for medical expenses and repair bills, and although we take a percentage of the settlement as our payment insurance companies are often ready to give you better terms rather than face a team of experts ready to go to court if needed.