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Should helmets be required for motorcycle riders?

Posted Monday, February 20, 2012, at 2:54 PM

I read this morning that a group of motorcycle enthusiasts and a few of our state lawmakers have a bill going before the House Transportation subcommitte tomorrow trying to get Tennessee's helmet law repealed.

Some riders want the feeling of wind flowing through their hair, others refer to individual freedom.

Before I retired I covered many accidents involving motorcyles. During that time I saw several riders die because they weren't wearing a helmet. I never saw one die because he was wearing a helmet. I've seen life flowing out of helmetless riders due to head injuries. To me, that is a much bigger point in favor of helmets than the freedom of wind flowing through their hair of riders without helmets.

I don't like to drive my car on a street or highway around motorcyles. Even wearing a helmet they have little protection in case of an accident.

Do you think those riding motorcycles should wear a helmet?


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-- Posted by polus on Mon, Dec 16, 2013, at 12:34 PM

If a person does not have the respect for life or the simple common since to wear a helmet I seriously doubt they have the judgement needed to ride on public roads. What about the rights of those who do not want to see or clean up their brains that are spread over the road when the motorcycle rider is involved in an accident? I watched a man get broadsided by a car once and if not for his helmet his head would have been splattered !! He went up flipped a couple times and landed head first. It is not always a matter of how good the rider is, people do not "see" motorcycles and there is no way for the cycle driver to control or to avoid those situations.

-- Posted by wonderwhy on Mon, Mar 5, 2012, at 9:05 AM

When I was 13 I bought my first motorcycle with money I made picking up walnuts. I hated the helmet law. The helmet was so heavy and made my neck hurt. I thought I would get another helmet and put them on my knees (because that is where I always seemed to get hurt when I laid the bike down.) That way I could tell the police, when I was pulled over. "Hey, I am complying with the law. I got two helmets on.. the law don't say where you got to wear them". Now that I am older, I don't ride my motorcycle. It is setting in the garage with the tires dry rotting and 3,000 actual miles on a 1986 250 limited edition Honda. I am to chicken to ride! I still got a lot of living to do and the way people drive today it is just to great of a risk with or without a helmet.

I don't know how I feel. Are there not states that do not require a helment? There should be some statics available to determine which is safer. If I ever ride again, I will definately wear a helmet (and knee pads!)... I need all the protection I can get and then some.

-- Posted by Union on Tue, Feb 28, 2012, at 9:20 AM

@quietmike...I believe you're on to something here Mike. People who choose to damage their bodies to the point they destroy their health have absolutely no right to expect responsible people to pick up the tab for their health care.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Fri, Feb 24, 2012, at 11:19 PM

Is it also our right to burden those around us with our care based on our free (albeit stupid) choices?

-- Posted by Tim Baker

No it isn't. But, as a solution, instead of more government (requiring helmets) why not less government (get them out of the charity business)?

Then everyone can have their free choices and freely accept the consequences of them.

-- Posted by quietmike on Thu, Feb 23, 2012, at 5:12 PM

Another thought: I understand that we should have the right to wear or not wear a helmet. Take risks based on choice. Live or die by our terms.

Here's the issue. What if you live but are severely impaired? I'm sure Bo (as well as myself) have seen this too. You are no longer living or dying by your terms. You are now existing on the backs of loved ones or taxpayers. Is it also our right to burden those around us with our care based on our free (albeit stupid) choices?

-- Posted by Tim Baker on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 9:19 PM

The Constitution gives you the right to wear a helmet or Not wear a helmet, if you know your constitutional rights which 99 % of the people do not.

The real question is... do they have a right to take their life away from their loved ones.

If they die they have given their loved ones a great loss. If they don't die they could be putting a burden on their loved ones.

I wished I had a helmet on when I raised my head up under a cabinet door left open. Minor accidents can feel much worse when not wearing a helmet.

It may be cool to not wear a helmet, but it is much cooler to wear one which says I love my loved ones.

As far as constitutional rights go... where are the rights of the family when he/she is gone?

-- Posted by Unique-Lies on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 12:33 PM

Actor Gary Busey advocates for helmet laws now. Too bad he didn't prior to the accident.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 7:45 AM

Yes, Absolutely~! The cost of any major accident is just too great. An injured rider could end up with millions of dollars worth of medical bills and lifecare needs. Even if insured, they would more than likely reach the lifetime maximum of thier health insurance policy very quickly. Then the burden of the cost of care would become TN Care/Medicaid burden and cost all taxpayers because of the irresponsible choice of one.

-- Posted by justwanaknow on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 7:45 PM

No Helmet = Organ Donor. So go for it, don't wear a helmet, lots folks out there needing organ donations.

-- Posted by Sharon22 on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 11:44 AM

PrpleHze- You are correct in the fact that yes someone riding a motorcycle can hurt or kill someone else but them a wearing a helmet or not doesn't change that fact. The helmet will only protect the motorcyclist just as the life jacket protects only the swimmer. The helmet law is not for the protection of those that the motorcyclist may crash into.

-- Posted by Rodney Simmons on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 10:19 AM

For example,if you agree with these type of laws then why not apply more, like no swimming without a life jacket, many people die and suffer brain damage from drowning every year and you could apply the same argument for a law requiring helmets and seat belts to life jackets for swimmers.

-- Posted by Rodney Simmons on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 8:31 AM

The difference is, that if you decide to go swimming without any safety in mind and you die, then that is just it - you die and no one else suffers from it. However, if you ride a motorcycle as careless as the ones that zoom past my home and you crash into another car, tree, whatever it may be - you will most likely hurt or kill another along with killing yourself. So you cannot compare swimmers to a motorcyclist.

-- Posted by PrpleHze on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 9:54 AM

I don't think we should have laws that protect us from ourselves. A law requiring a person to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle, I feel infringes a person's freedom to choose, as does the seat belt law. Why must we have our government make us do things that they feel are best for us? Also if we required people to carry an addition $100,000 health and life insurance policy if they didn't wear a helmet, why stop there? If the government had a law like that they could require one for any activity that people do that they felt was dangerous. For example,if you agree with these type of laws then why not apply more, like no swimming without a life jacket, many people die and suffer brain damage from drowning every year and you could apply the same argument for a law requiring helmets and seat belts to life jackets for swimmers.

-- Posted by Rodney Simmons on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 8:31 AM

I was trying to think of why we should require helmets, even though it is the obvious safe choice. decorate1956, you make an excellent point. If they die or are injured by head trauma for any reason and not wearing a helmet, they are responsible for their condition.

With that in mind, maybe they can have a choice. Wear a helmet or carry an additional $100,000 additional health & life insurance policy for their medical expenses, family or to pay their debts after they are dead. That might bring home the idea that they are making a serious choice.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 8:02 AM

Well, if people driving cars have to wear seat belts then motorcyle riders should be forced to wear a helmet. If they are allowed to be exempt from wearing it then why should automobile drivers be forced to wear a seat belt considering they are even more protected inside a car?

-- Posted by jaxspike on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 7:50 AM

From the experiences of emergency medicine and intervention, only those with lack of appreciation for life will be "without" a helmet. With the excess speed and lack of attention of some automobile drivers due to cell phones, radios - etc., the motorcycle drivers will be at their own mercy -- it's their choice if they want to live or don't care. I do think if a motorcycle driver is injured or possibly dies in a motor vehicle accident and "is not" wearing a helmet, he or she should automatically be at fault for their own injuries and not have legal recourse against another party.

-- Posted by decorate1956 on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 7:16 AM

This is one of the topics where I am in the middle. When I was younger, I used to ride motorcycles a lot. And just like buckling up when I first get into a car, grabbing my helmet was the first thing I always did.

I think it should be up to the individual to make the decision if he/she wants their brains splattered on the concrete if they have an accident.

But on the other hand, I think they should wear them. It is a safety precaution just like wearing a seat belt in a vehicle or pads when skateboarding. I have been in a car when a motorcyclist hit the back of it and flipped over it - smacking the hood and then the road. He had a concussion. But at least he lived. If he didn't have a helmet, then they would have scooped him up off of the road.

-- Posted by PrpleHze on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 6:53 AM

It's their life, it should be their choice.

-- Posted by quietmike on Mon, Feb 20, 2012, at 5:54 PM


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Bo Melson is a retired sports and police beat editor of the Times-Gazette.
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