Although the federal government issues “advisory” motor vehicle safety laws, the majority of regulation of highway safety is left up to the individual states. As a result, there is a wide variety of such laws throughout the country. One example of this is motorcycle helmet laws. In Texas, motorcyclists under the age of 21 are required to wear helmets at all times. Some states require helmets on all riders, regardless of age or circumstance, while others let motorcyclists decide whether to wear helmets.
Motorcycle advocacy group the American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, or ABATE, believes that the latter is the appropriate method of regulating motorcycle helmets – that motorcyclists should be given the freedom to determine whether and when they wear helmets.
“Mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent accidents,” the ABATE website states. “The decision on when to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle should remain with each responsible adult rider.”
However, government safety officials and motorcycle accident lawyers do not agree. According to Jim Hedlund of the Governors Highway Safety Association, a helmet that meets federal helmet standards reduces the chance of rider death in a motorcycle accident by more than 40 percent.
The latter viewpoint may have gained some support last weekend, when a group of 550 motorcyclists took to the road in New York to protest that state’s mandatory helmet laws in a ride that takes place every July 4 in the state.
The event took a tragic turn when a 55-year-old participant suddenly hit his brakes, causing his motorcycle to fishtail. He was thrown over the handlebars and hit his head on the pavement, and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. According to a New York state trooper, the motorcyclist would likely have survived the crash if he had been wearing a helmet when he hit the ground.
What do you think? Should motorcycle helmets be mandatory?