I watch my Harley-riding neighbor fire up his machine. He wears clunky black boots to protect his feet and ankles, gloves to prevent rocks and debris from striking his hands, and dons a pair of motorcycle sunglasses to protect his eyes from glare and dirt.
Yet this person never wears a motorcycle helmet.
In terms of vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists are approximately 21 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash and four times as likely to be injured. The NHTSA found that helmets reduce the risk of death by 29% and are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries to motorcycle riders.
The NHTSA studied four states that repealed helmet laws in the 1990s, and found that the rate of fatalities among motorcycle riders rose significantly. In Kentucky there was a jump of 58%, while Arkansas recorded an increase of 29%; motorcycle fatalities rose 37% in Texas following the repeal of helmet laws, while in Louisiana there was a whopping 108% increase in fatalities among motorcycle riders in the two years after the repeal of helmet laws.
And - for those who might argue that this is an issue of personal choice - remember too that all of us pay for the splattered brains of injured motorcyclists whose stubborn refusal to wear helmets leads to expensive stays in the ICU or lifelong disability care.
Ohio is a state with a watered-down helmet law, which applies only to minors. From the Ohio Revised Code, 4511.53 Rules for Bicycles, Motorcycles and Snowmobiles:
No person who is under the age of eighteen years, or who holds a motorcycle operator's endorsement or license bearing a "novice" designation that is currently in effect as provided in section 4507.13 of the Revised Code, shall operate a motorcycle on a highway, or be a passenger on a motorcycle, unless wearing a protective helmet on his head, and no other person shall be a passenger on a motorcycle operated by such a person unless similarly wearing a protective helmet.Of course, minors represent a small segment of the total motorcyclist population, so this type of law has little effect and, moreover, merely stigmatizes helmet use: only "kiddies" wear helmets, and when you are "grown up," you don't need a sissy-looking helmet.
Hell, to be honest, I think helmet use is a good idea for any vehicle on the road, including automobiles. Whatever you think of NASCAR, at least the drivers have enough common sense to wear helmets.
I was conversing with an acquaintance the other day about this subject, and he said that he used to be an anti-helmet stalwart until a recent event.
"My dad was in a wicked accident without a helmet, and he almost died from his head injuries," he said. "It took seeing him hooked up to life-support for me to realize that helmets are a necessary evil."
Just wear the helmet, people.