Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Helmet Laws and Mary Peters

Helmet Laws and Mary PetersI wonder where the helmet laws, and the lack of, will be heading in the next few years.

Mary Peters, the secretary of the federal Department of Transportation, has made it publicly known that she's out to get every state to adopt a mandatory helmet law.

Peters claims to be a Harley rider herself, and cites a motorcycle accident she suffered as the inspiration for this crusade. She's actually visiting every state legislature, meeting with lawmakers, and urging them to adopt laws making helmet use a requirement. Wouldn't it be nice if Joe Schmucks like the rest of us could get such attention?

If my State of California rescinded its helmet laws, I'd still be wearing a helmet. Considering my accident history, it's a smart idea. But that's just my choice.

Making things worse is that newspaper editors around the country are picking up on this. I scan through all these newspapers everyday through my newsfeed reader, looking for material to blog about on Biker News Online. The past month they've been crammed with articles and editorials about the "skyrocketing rate" of motorcycle deaths.

And it all coincides with Mary Peters crusade.

Mandatory helmet use is just one in a long line of "big brother knows what's best for us" laws. There are also eyewear laws. And we have seatbelt laws. Child safety seat laws. Cell phone laws.

And if they can't take away our right to do something, they tax it so hard that we can't afford to do it anymore. Like smoke a cigarette.

They cite the need for these laws because such careless injuries and illnesses are a burden on the public healthcare system.

Well, if they didn't have a public healthcare system, then we wouldn't need it. But that's another argument for another day.

Any decrease in fatalities from nationwide helmet laws will be overcome by the quickly increasing rate of motorcycle and scooter owners. Even with mandatory helmet use in all 50 states, Mary Peters is not going to get the numbers she wants, because the sheer volume of riders will have increased, ensuring that fatalities will keep rising.

With gas prices closing in on $4.00 a gallon, we may be close to reaching a critical mass where legislators will take notice. If motorcycle rights organizations like ABATE, MRF, and BOLT can draw these riders into their court, and get them to vote, we may be electing lawmakers that believe in the freedom of choice.

In the meantime, Mary Peters is working quickly to get every state to adopt a mandatory helmet law, before the conditions fall away from her favor.


  1. Like you, I would never even consider riding my bike without wearing a helmet. But it ticks me off that other people think they have the right to tell me I have to! I understand that child safety seat laws are there to protect the children who are not old enough to know any better and have parents who are morons. But my helmet (or lack thereof) is not going to hurt anyone but me. Besides, if I were stupid enough to choose to go helmet-less, then Darwin says I deserve to die. And really, wouldn't it be better for society if I didn't get a chance to procreate and pass on such stupidity to the next generation?

  2. I'm going to join both of you in saying I also would not choose to ride without a helmet if it were legal here. I also have always respected the choice of those who don't wear them.

    The only thing I'll say in defense of the helmet law is that operating a motor vehicle is not a right as many claim. It is a regulated privilege. Saying the authorities have "no right" to tell you to wear a helmet equates to saying they have "no right" to require you to have a motorcycle endorsement on your license, or to carry proper insurance.

    There's always a debate over to where to draw the line and I understand it. For example there's now law about wearing boots vs. sneakers, or leather vs. nylon mesh. So why a helmet? I'm no expert on statistics, but somehow I think they probably show less injuries and deaths in helmet states vs. non-helmet states.

    The point of view that I'm not going to hurt anyone but myself is also a great one, as long as you don't carry a passenger. As I said, I don't have a problem with those who chose not to wear one, but I can't disrespect the law just because I don't agree with it.

    Bottom line: If one is really that passionate about not wearing a helmet, there are lots of non-helmet states with homes for sale. The other choice is to join the process and lobby for a change in your state's law, which is really what this country is all about. If enough folks agree with you, then it can be changed.

    "The Man" is a pain in the ass sometimes, but we need him there. We're a nation of laws for a reason. I really don't want to raise my family in a place that's like a scene out of "Mad Max."


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)