WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

North Carolina is considering ditching helmet requirements, but in doing so they are not protecting the public

By James - 3/27/2013

North Carolina’s Transportation Committee is introducing a law that would lift the requirement on motorcyclists to wear a helmet.

From News-Record.com

On a voice vote, the House Transportation Committee approved giving adults the choice to ride without a helmet if they have had a motorcycle license or endorsement for a year, completed a motorcycle safety course and have insurance covering $10,000 in medical benefits.

I really don’t care if you want to wear a helmet or not. With all the evidence that helmets prevent death and injury, anyone not wearing one is an idiot. Seeing helmetless riders makes it easy to figure out who the dolts are and avoid them. But America is full of idiots and I do not have the time to fight stupidity. I am fine with people riding without helmets as long as it does not cause me harm.

The North Carolina bill will cause everybody in the state harm as it is written. The requirement of $10,000 in medical insurance is not nearly sufficient to offset medical costs caused by the average traumatic brain injury caused by motorcycle collisions, let alone the more severe injuries sustained by survivors of crashes. An examination of multiple studies (Selected Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics) find that the average traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cost over $100,000 up front and $4 million over a lifetime. About three-quarters of people who experience a TBI cannot return to work and are relegated to disability insurance for the rest of their life. Those unfortunate to die after a TBI cost on average of $450,000 after life saving efforts and hospital stay before passing.

In light of the enormous costs associated with with the real and present danger of brain injury from riding a motorcycle, why is the requirement for medical insurance so low? As I have blogged about in the past, up to 90% of motorists are either uninsured or have the bare minimum. That means that when an unfortunate event happens, and when the insurance maxes out, the hospital is left holding the bag. In turn they increase rates and pass the costs onto everyone who uses the hospital. After being released from the hospital, our fortunate biker will probably have to quit their job and go on disability and Medicare further putting strain on our welfare system and the taxes we pay.

California saw a 37.5% drop in motorcycle fatalities after implementing a helmet law in 1992. Michigan recently saw a 18% increase in fatalities after repealing their helmet mandate. The cost to the public is not trivial and it hurts everyone who uses hospitals or pays taxes. The requirement for insurance to ride without a helmet should be $100,000. As someone who has a $250,000 policy, I can tell you it costs about $250 more than minimum coverage. About the price of a helmet. Again, I don’t care if you are an idiot, I just don’t want to pay for your stupidity.


Auxiliary lighting for the R1200GS: Hella FF50 Fog Light Installation

By James - 11/30/2012

I wanted to add extra lighting to the 1200GS. I have a headlight modulator for the day but I needed some extra lighting for night. That is why I chose fog lights. I can run them at night as long as the focused part of the beam does not shine in the eyes of other motorists. On top of the increased visibility to others, I also wanted to improve the illumination that the lights put out. It is a fine line between bright headlights that let you see and lights that sear the retinas of other motorists.

The Hella FF50s have some pros:

  • They are well made in Germany
  • The shape and materials match the BMW R1200GS design
  • The price is the best value for the money

I looked at Clearwater and Rigid Industries LED lights but at $400-$700 without mounting options, it seemed a little too expensive compared to the Hellas. I got the kit from Fernblau for about $160 after the currency conversion. It comes with brackets, wiring, electrical connections and an Autoswitch.

The only downside is that the kit (lights and brackets) I got come from Germany. It took about 10 days to show up but it was a little tough without help from Google Translate. Americans will need to order through the Web site, and then email to finalize payment through Paypal.

I utilized the Autoswitch that came with the kit and wired it to the turn signal cancel switch. Holding the switch activates the lights on or off. In order to wire it to the TSC switch, I had to remove the tank, which is surprisingly easy on a GS, and solder the trigger wire to the TSC wire. The other wire I had to tap into was a power source that was hot when the ignition was on but off when the key was out. I have a heated seat that is wired to the ignition so I used that. Past that it was just wiring up the relay and zip-tieing the wires out of the way.

Here is a video of the comparison of my low beam vs the Hella FF50s during my nighttime commute home and some photos of the lights.


In love with heated vests

By James - 2/16/2012

The funky weather pattern that has been giving most of the US a mild winter has kept the rain away from the Bay Area. This means there is less latent moisture in the air which makes for colder nights and mornings. When I say cold, it is all relative. Being this close to the Bay and ocean, temps don’t usually get below 35 degrees F, but that is significant on a motorcycle going 65mph. I used to bundle up, I looked like the Michelin man with layers and layers of shirts and fleeces under my jacket. Mobility was restricted and as soon as I stopped for any reason, I started sweating. Then I scavenged an old heated vest from my dad’s unused motorcycle gear. I snipped off the old connection and put an SAE plug on it so it will connect to my bike and it has been great. Now I can cruise in 35 degree weather without all the bulk. It is like having on a heavy vest, that heats up! If you have a lot of cold weather riding, I highly recommend getting one.

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