The link between helmet laws and motorcyclists fatalities may seem intuitive and obvious, but now because of a study published in the American Journal of Surgery we have scientific proof that helmets save lives. The study focuses around Michigan, which repealed its mandatory helmet law (thanks to help from the AMA) in April 2012, and has since had three riding seasons with a greatly reduce helmet-wearing requirement. Postulating that legislatures made a mistake in that repeal, the basic conclusions from the study are that the state has seen an increase in injury severity for motorcycles, a higher in-patient mortality for motorcyclists, and worse neurological damage for motorcyclists. While those are all painful logical results, the numbers paint an even more grim picture.
If you’ve already filed your 2014 tax return, you might want to make an addendum before April 15th, as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made several last-minute exemption to the US Tax Code, one of which allows motorcyclists to claim up to $500 on a new helmet purchase as tax deductible.
The move comes about after a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that suggested billions of dollars could be saved if all motorcyclists wore helmets.
Citing the efforts of groups like the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) whose anti-helmet political agenda has resonated the most with the same anti-tax libertarians who routinely fail to pay federal income taxes, the IRS has finally decided to fight fire with fire, and believes it has effectively found a way to bring a non-compliant tax group in line with the law.
Call it the ever-increasing nanny state, or maybe just blame the liberals in Sacramento who just can’t help themselves, but starting with all 2015 model year bike, motorcycles OEMs will have to affix tobacco-style warning labels to any motorcycle they wish to sell in the great State of California.
Passed this morning, SB 0401 cites the overwhelming statistical evidence that motorcycles are likely to lead to serious injury or death, which has prompted California State Surgeon General Avril Trompez, working with a consortium of Democrat California Senators, to write and pass a bill that would treat motorcycles more like cigarettes when it comes to warning of these “potential” dangers.
The AMA recently issued a bulletin stating that a federal task force from the CDC is poised to recommend a nationwide mandatory helmet law. True to form, the AMA is opposed to the recommendation. Citing the organization’s official party line, AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard said that while the AMA strongly advocates helmet use, the organization believes that motorcyclists should have the right to choose whether or not they wear a helmet. Honestly though, it is about time that the AMA, and we as motorcyclists, got a bit more honest and real about motorcycle safety, and stopped capitulating to a vocal group of libertarian riders who see riding without a helmet as an integral part of motorcycling culture.
Looking at helmets from 50 years ago, and the basic concept hasn’t changed all that much in the time since. A hard shell, some impact material, and a soft lining mated to a visor and chin-strap system, over the last half-century most of the improvements to the basic helmet design have been for added fit and comfort, or cheaper and lighter materials — even the more creative and innovative designs that are being hocked around the internet right now don’t stray far from the current concept. Think 50 years ahead though, and it is hard to imagine the same shapes and designs staying constant. In fact, it becomes even possible to imagine motorcyclists wearing not helmets at all.
In 2010, 439,678 motorcycles were sold in the United States. In that same year, 82,000 motorcyclists were injured in motorcycle crashes, and 4,502 were killed. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the direct cost of these motorcycle crashes was $16 billion or more. Thirty-times more likely to die in a vehicle accident, the typical fatal motorcycle crash costs an estimated $1.2 million according to the report, while non-fatal crashes range from $2,500 to $1.4 million depending upon the severity of the injuries and incidents. In making its recommendations to curtail the costs associated with motorcycle crashes, the GAO says that only effective measure is the mandatory use of a motorcycle helmet.
According to the statistical analysis done by the CDC, riders wearing helmets during a motorcycle crash were 37% less likely to receive fatal injuries than riders that were not wearing a helmet. Additionally, states with universal helmet usage laws are estimated to have save 4x as much in economic costs associated with medical, productivity, insurance, legal, and other expenses. For 2010, the total economic impact of having helmeted riders topped $3 billion in savings. Chewy.
Some tragic news with a twist comes to us from the long holiday weekend, as we get word that a helmetless rider from Onondaga, NY died after crashing his 1983 Harley Davidson motorcycle during a protest rally. Though it’s always unfortunate when we lose a member of the motorcycle community, this story has a bit of irony as we learn that Philip A. Contos was participating in a motorcycle helmet protest when the 55-year-old flipped over the handlebars of his motorcycle, and hit his head against the pavement. According to the attending physician, and based off the evidence and information at the scene of the accident, Contos would have survived the fall had he been wearing a DOT approved helmet, but instead sadly perished from his injuries.
Twice now Michigan has come close to repealing its helmet law for motorcycles, with both instances being vetoed by Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But now with Gov. Granholm no longer in office, and with Republicans also having control over the legislature, the stars have seemingly aligned for the state’s riders to make another bid on nixing the law. It’d just be great if we could all mature as an industry, and realize how asinine some of these arguments are becoming. Let’s at least pretend like we’re not a bunch of toothless high school dropouts with nine kids (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and instead let’s have an honest debate about safety, public policy, and the real burden of anti-helmet laws.
I love our neighbors to the north, endless outdoor fun, progressive thinking, and an affinity for things of a more “crunchy” nature. But as a 5th-generation Californian, it is ingrained in my head to fear and mistrust the oppressive dictatorship and hate machine the Oregonians run (the California public school system starts this process in the second grade), as they steal children in the middle of the night and brainwash them into Birkenstock-wearing slave labor and questionable physical hygiene boot camps.
So it comes as some surprise that the Oregon State House of Representatives is introducing a bill to allow motorcycle riders, ages 21 and over, the choice of whether they want to ride with helmets or not (an act that misguided tea party wannabes equate with freedom on the open road).
The Missouri State legislature has passed a bill that, if signed, would repeal the state’s mandatory helmet regulation, thus allowing riders over the age of 21 who are traveling on city roads, to do so without a helmet. The passage of this bill is naturally divisive, with advocates of individual liberties and safety experts squarely on opposite sides of the table. Should personal liberty advocates win this debate, the bill would make Missouri 1 of 28 states with such a helmet law on the books.