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.


Mailbag: Are cheap helmets worth the risk?

By James - 4/14/2007

Steve wrote:

Are KBC helmets any good? How come they’re so much cheaper than Arai and Shoei? Should I go straight to an Arai to protect my melon? The KBC’s are tempting because of the price.

The price of a helmet is generally related to the quality of the materials and features; liners, graphics, shields, the noise levels and venting options. You get what you pay for. KBCs have a reputation of wearing out sooner than some of it’s competitors, but if you are replacing your helmet every 3-5 years the helmet should last unless you are an everyday rider.

You may be concerned about safety, but if your helmet is certified by DOT, Snell, ECE or BSI you can be certain that it will protect your head as well as any other helmet. There has been an informal trackday study from Roadracingworld that shows that Arai and Shoei helmets prevent concussions (32% and 34% of crashes resulted in a concussion, respectively) a little better than AGV and HJC (35% and 36% of crashes resulted in a concussion, respectively). KBC was not on the list.
What stuck out to me was that the difference between the “best” and “worst” is only 4% better prevention of concussions while the price can be 300+% higher. I agree that you should pay more to protect your head, but it seems that the crash standards are pretty consistent across brands, so safety is not an issue when choosing a helmet.

The single most important aspect to choosing a helmet is fit. Some people have KBC-shaped heads, some have Shoei-shaped heads and I have an HJC-shaped head. You need to go to a store that has a lot of brands and try them all on. Find what feels best and get that one. Happy riders are safer riders so get a helmet that fits, regardless of brand.


Flip Flops and an Arai

By James - 4/9/2007

People’s rational amazes me sometimes. I wish I had a camera to document what I came across today but I left my phone at my desk. But first a word about gear.

I come from the ATGMOTT school of dressing for rides. “All the Gear, Most of the Time". There are the ATGATT nazis, “All the Gear, All the Time” and there are squids, who wear flip flops and wife beater shirt. I am in between, although closer to ATTGATT than squid. I don’t care what you wear when YOU ride, but if you are riding with ME, or ask MY opinion I will tell you to wear ATGATT. Do as I say, not as I do.

So on the way back from lunch I saw a scooter chick donning her gear. Suede jacket, capri pants, flip flops . . . and an Arai helmet. I understand protecting your head but it seems like you are putting all your eggs in one basket with that get up. If you get hit, you may save your head with an expensive helmet but your arms, legs and especially your feet will be badly injured. She had a million dollar smile so I can justify it a little, but seriously; get a decent HJC at half the price and spend the money you saved on overpants. You need to protect yourself proportionately. A $500 helmet and $5 flip flops is not better than a $200 helmet and $100 overpants.


What your gear choices say about you

By James - 1/14/2007

While doing some research I came across an article about motorcycles and CPR titled “Must you do it?“.

“MUST you perform CPR if you know how and it is apparent that it is needed? Let me bring this into clear focus for you: You find someone that is DEAD and believe you could revive him using CPR. Must you try?

My OPINION is that nothing - no law, no moral obligation, no ‘contract’, and no force of nature - forces you to perform CPR.”

I was a bit shocked that someone would have such a cowardly view, especially a so-called biker and MSF instructor. I gave him the benefit of a doubt, maybe he is just covering his ass in this litigious society, so I read on . . .

“If you happen upon a motorcyclist who appears to be a victim of a motorcycle accident and that person is not wearing a helmet, you have EVERY RIGHT to conclude that since he is so cavalier about his safety when riding a motorcycle he may well also be cavalier about wearing condoms. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it’s not true, but you have the right to decide NOT TO ADMINISTER CPR for whatever reason you choose, including that one.”

This really shocked me. You have no right to look at a rider’s gear and assume that he has a death wish. Most cagers make this same false assumption about all motorcyclists. But the final conclusion that Mr. Davis comes to, that you have every right not to help a downed biker, “for whatever reason you choose” is a sad commentary on the values of a lot of people.

According to a handful of studies I found, no one has ever transmitted HIV during CPR. According to TulsaCPR

“The probability that a rescuer will become infected with either the AIDS or hepatitis virus as a result of performing CPR is minimal. There have been no cases to date of transmission of AIDS or hepatitis during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If you are still concerned, there are face masks and shields available that you can place over the victim’s mouth to provide a physical barrier during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Some of these are small enough to be carried on your keychain.”

You are more likely to contract a disease while treating a cut than giving CPR. Regardless, you cannot tell if someone is sick by looking at them. I am in awe of Mr. Davis’ ability to predict people’s medical history from the gear a motorcyclist choses to wear. Is wearing sneakers while riding a predictor of dyslexia? Does not wearing a back protector tell potential rescuers that I am lactose intolerant? Are you afraid you might contract these while providing medical care? I wonder whether he would help ANYONE who does not share Mr. Davis’ “healthy” completion.

I am not a masochist, I understand the fear of ill health or lengthy lawsuits. But an irrational fear based on ignorance is bigotry. Someone who half-asses it when another biker is hurt is cowardly and selfish scum. Mr. Davis, I can assure you that if you are ever hurt and I am passing by, I will stop and do everything I can to help. I hope you can pick up some $5 CPR safety products and rejoin the human race.


Are unhelmeted riders really costing us an arm and a leg?

By James - 11/10/2006

Someone on a forum I participate in, while discussing helmet laws, brought up the frequent lament of those in favor of mandatory helmet laws. Insurance rates and taxes will go up as more unhelmetd bikers are a burden on the public healthcare system. I wondered how much the “burden” was and wanted to put it into perspective, so I did a little research.

Unhelmeted riders cost taxpayers $853 million last year.

The United States spent $1.9 trillion on healthcare in 2004.

Unhelmeted riders accounted for .00004% of the spend.

For comparison, caring for smoking related health problems cost the government $12.9 billion or .007%. That is more than 150 times more costly.

Here are some more numbers I found around the web:

Obesity costs the government $7.7 billion in healthcare expenses

Alcohol costs the government $12.2 billion in healthcare expenses

Medicaid fraud costs the government $140 billion in healthcare expenses

Now I am all for reducing waste, but the argument that unhelmeted riders are a burden on our healthcare system is a weak one. When it is put into perspective with other more costly activities it seems to be a pittance. Whether or not you are for or against helmet laws, I hope you find this data useful.


The Helmet-Terrorists Hold our Head Hostage

By James - 7/14/2006

According to this article Ben Roethlisberger is not using his celebrity status to endorse or condem helmetless riding. Some thought that because of the severity of his injuries he would be shamed into doing public service anouncements.

“I don’t think that’s my place,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said in a television interview Friday.

“Some people feel that, you know, I probably should be doing that and being a big advocate for that,” Roethlisberger said from Los Angeles. “But for me, I’m going to let people make their own decisions … So I don’t think you’ll see me doing any kind of billboards or advertisements.”

I am both dissapointed and impressed with how he is handling this incident. I am disapointed because Ben was riding faster than he was willing to crash. Someone with so much to lose needs to take reasonable precautions to guard his future. I am impressed because I am so sick and tired of celebrities using their publicity to jam their political views down our throats. I hope all atheletes, movie stars and lip-syncers take a page out of Ben’s playbook. Do what you are good at, entertaining me, and stop complaining about problems you barely understand. Let people make their own decisions. Following the reasoning of a superstar will only get you into trouble.

I can’t stand the people who are scared into their position, like supporting helmet laws only after having their face rearranged by a crash. It is so transparent. Since when is fear a good reason to do something. People who use fear to motivate are called terrorists. Good for Ben to not give in to such tactics.

So who should we listen to? Well kids, listen to your parents. The trouble is, a lot of kids have crappy parents. Just today I saw on the morning news a sad story.

A boy who died after the dirt bike he was riding was struck by a sport utility vehicle on a West Oakland street early Friday morning was not wearing a helmet and was riding the bike without a headlight, Oakland police told CBS 5.

Mikal Robinson, 15, of Oakland, suffered serious injuries in the 2:15 a.m. collision and died at Highland Hospital at 5 a.m., according to police.

The driver of the SUV won’t face charges, according to Alexander.

Usually I am all over the clueless drivers of cages, but in this case the accicent was clearly not the cager’s fault. I have to ask the parents of the boy, Why was a 15 year old out at 2:15 in the morning? Why was he riding a stolen, according to the morning news, minibike, without a headlight in the middle of the night? And why did they not require him to wear a helmet? The police are still investigating but I think they need to be investigating the boy’s parents for being neglectful.


Heads Up Display for Motorcyclists Gives me a Headache

By James - 2/2/2005

I just read Heads Up Display for Motorcyclists over at BikerNewsOnline and got excited about the advancement. But then I got to thinking . . . Can people (can I) focus on a visor when it is only 3 inches from your eye? I just did an experiment and I wrote “Hello World” on a Post-it and put it on my visor. I put on the helmet and I couldn’t read it. It was too close. Anybody know the workaround for this other than moving the visor out to 6 inches?

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