Helmets: A Matter of Choice?
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Perhaps the most volatile debate in the motorcycle world involves the wearing of helmets.
If you stroll into any biker watering hole preaching the safety and necessity of donning the controversial headwear, you may not make many friends. Represent yourself as a proponent of laws requiring helmet usage for all riders on the roadways, and you might have to take your leave in a hurry.
This may come as quite a shock to the average weekend wheeler. After all, organizations like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) are adamant about securing your noggin while riding a motorcycle. Many lawmakers have listened to their recommendation that states require the use of helmets.
Currently, 20 states have comprehensive helmet laws on their books. Regardless of age or ability, a rider must wear an appropriate helmet while operating a motorcycle in the state. Failing to do so runs the risk of a citation.
Seven states have rather ambiguous laws that prevent riders up to age 20 from having the choice between covering the head or not. These laws tend to really draw the ire of motorcyclists and their proponents.
So, it is probably a good thing they are only spread across a handful of states. Otherwise, the levels of civil disobedience might rise through the roof.
Many motorcycle riders believe wearing a helmet should be a choice. The legislators, in order to avoid a prolonged debate on the subject, often invoke pressure from insurance companies as one of the major reasons for the helmet requirement for the younger riders.
Another 19 states allow you to toss the helmet once you reach the age of 18. This seems rather reasonable, considering that young drivers are just getting a grasp of the road and are more prone to accidents.
Most riders tend to accept this also. Minors have limited rights across the board, so urging a bit of restraint seems pragmatic.
But, there is a small contingent out there that is against even these laws. They are sold on the fact that helmets actually pose a threat.
Some of the complaints include:
- Helmets limit hearing and peripheral vision.
- They are bulky and heavy, which can wear down a rider on long rides.
- They hold heat, essentially creating an oven-like environment that can lead the driver to experience dizziness.
Both sides have pretty convincing arguments and plenty of data to make a case. But, at the end of the day, the issue comes down to choice.
Riders want to be able to decide for themselves whether to take the risk. Considering the spirit of freedom the motorcycle represents, it only makes sense that they would take the position to put the choice in the hands of the rider.
When given that choice, many other riders will choose to wear a helmet―many will simply feel safer. The debate on legislated use of motorcycle helmets will undoubtedly continue.
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