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Freedom to choose or to choose not to

By: Michael Walrath

How many of you get on you motorcycle with out putting your helmet on? For that
matter how many of you don’t even have a helmet at all?

I ask these questions because I read a lot of articales on motorcycle safety, have
taken a few safety courses in my day, and heard a lot of argument pros and cons
about wearing a helmet.

Now I have my own opinion about wearing a helmet. I am also not here to preach
or tell you want you need to do. The good Lord has given you the ability and the
right to choose what is best for you. However in order to make a good choice it
helps to know a few of the facts.

The first fact and I feel the most important fact to know is obvious.

There is always a risk of bodily injury or death every time you get on your bike and

A motorcycle is less crashworthy then a car. They are less stable then a car and also
less visible by other drivers. You are 3 times more likely to be injured in a
motorcycle crash then in a car and 16 times more likely to die.

I would like to quote some 2006 motorcycle statistics

“In 2006, 4,798 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 5.4

percent from 4,553 in 2005 to the highest level since
“Motorcycle fatalities are estimated to have risen more than 125
percent. In 2006, 87,000 motorcycle riders were injured in accidents,
the same number as in 2005 and up 53 percent from 57,000 in 1995.”
Another very important fact is that automobile drivers don’t look out for you.

About half of all motorcycles involved in a fatal crash collided with another vehicle.
There are a number of reasons for this. Fatigue, talking on cell phones, they are just
in too much of a hurry, a motorcycle is smaller and harder to judge the speed and
distance. I am sure that there are a lot more reason but you get my drift.

Now then lets investigate just how many of the 4,798 people that died in 2006 from
a motorcycle crash had helmets on.

First I’d like to say that head injury is a leading cause of death in motorcycle
crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates an un-
helmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent
more likely to incur a nonfatal head injury than a helmeted motorcyclist.

According to FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) helmet use among fatally
injured motorcyclists is below 50 percent. But on the same note according to
NHTSA Reported helmet use for fatally injured motorcyclists in 2005 were 58
percent of operators and 50 percent for passengers, compared with 56 percent and
47 percent, respectively, in 2004.

Here is another perspective to consider.

Warren Woodward, Chair, State Legislative Committee Street Bikers United Hawaii

“NHTSA is cherry picking data. In the opening summary, motorcycle fatalities are
presented as a crisis: "Since 1997 motorcycle rider fatalities have increased 89%."
Wow, sounds bad, but over the years I have received many solicitations from
investment newsletters. As a result I've learned how easy it is to pick certain time
frames to make profits look good. It's called cherry picking and it's what NHTSA is
doing here. Go back 15 years, since 1990, and fatalities have only increased 24%. If
you go back 25 years, from 1980 to 2004, the fatalities actually decrease 22%”

“So instead of starting out the report with a horrifying 89% increase in fatalities,
NHTSA could have begun by saying that since 1980 motorcycle fatalities have
dropped 22%. But then there's no crisis, and we wouldn't need to be saved, or at
least not by them.”

Warren also states that a chart on page 36 of the NHTSA 72 page report shows that
the helmet use rate in fatal crashes was basically unchanged for over ten years, from
1995 to 2004. “If helmets "save lives", shouldn't more of the dead be helmet less,
especially as fatalities rose 89%? Yet helmeted riders consistently comprise the
dead majority at around 54% of fatalities every year. Of course that doesn't stop
NHTSA from calling for mandatory helmet laws.” “ Ultimately, the helmet numbers
are useless because they do not reflect anything except how many were wearing and how
many were not at time of death.”

I have just begun to scratch the surface of this controversial debate. I am sure that if
you search and dig into the meat of this issue you can find as many pros as there are
cons. In the end what it finally comes down to is what is best for you. It should be
you that decides. After all isn’t that what freedom is really all about.

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