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Maryland's mandatory helmet law: Two opposing opinions


The authors express their opinions on Mandatory Helmet Laws.  Please post a comment to share your thoughts in the topic.

Recently, I found myself discussing Maryland’s helmet law with my friend Steve Strohmier, the State Legislative Representative for Abate of Maryland, Inc.   Finding that we had similar helmet habits, but with very different beliefs, the seed of an article began to grow. 

Below, Steve and I present our opinions on Maryland’s mandatory helmet law.  In an upcoming article, Steve and I will debate each other’s position on the topic.


Steve Strohmier: Reasons I Disagree With Mandatory Helmet Laws

“In the riding community there is a large contingent of riders who believe that helmet use should be a personal decision. Their reasons are many. Some of the riders who would never even consider riding without a helmet believe just as strongly in this freedom of choice as riders who would choose not to wear a helmet some, or even all, of the time.

One of the strongest objections is often based on one of the building blocks of our society, liberty. Choosing to not wear a helmet affects no one but the individual that makes that decision. Some laws are made to prevent injuries to others. Traffic signal systems, speed limits, and right of way laws are some of the laws that help control traffic and prevent crashes and when violated may cause injury to innocent drivers. Helmet laws only affect the rider that they are forced upon.

If I feel more attuned to my surroundings without a helmet and believe that with my heightened senses I am a better rider shouldn’t that be my decision? What if I am stuck in one of those crawling, middle of summer, sun baking backups with sweat pouring down from my helmeted head? Shouldn’t it be my decision to remove it so I can cool down?

The truly objectionable part of this issue is the double standard that exists. Those that believe in helmet choice do not want to force others to ride helmetless but those that believe in mandatory helmet laws are forcing their beliefs on us.”

Tom Bachur: Reasons I Agree With Mandatory Helmet Laws

“It has long been established that the issuance of a drivers license in Maryland is a privilege, not a right.  It is that basic premise that allows Maryland residents, through elected officials, to establish laws and statutes to regulate travel over our public roads.  While not perfect, this system of “rule of the people” is widely recognized as the best in the world.

I believe it reasonable for a State to regulate the actions of drivers.  Because of this, I have no problem with mandatory helmet laws.  I believe that helmet laws are no more restrictive to riders than mandatory seatbelt laws are to drivers.

I agree with Maryland’s Helmet Law, because I believe that helmets save lives.  According to NHTSA’s 2004 “Traffic Safety Facts Report” head injuries account for the majority of all motorcycle fatalities.  The same report indicates that helmet use decreases the risk of brain injuries by 67%.  These are facts that I find difficult to overlook.  Knowing that head injuries account for most motorcycle fatalities, wearing a helmet seems to be a “no-brainer” (pun intended)!

Personally, after a twenty-year law enforcement career, I observed many instances where a helmet clearly helped save a crash victim from serious injury, if not death.  Unfortunately, I also witnessed more cases then I care to remember where a helmet very well may have saved a life.

Finally, I don’t believe that all riders are always smart enough to know what is best for them.  Probably not my most popular opinion, but as an example, I’ll point out the knuckleheads that we’ve all seen weaving through traffic at high rates of speed on the beltway or interstate.  When these “riders” cause a crash, it is not a victimless crime; ask the other people involved, the insurance companies, the police and EMS responders who have to clean-up the scene, or the medical professionals who have to try to put the human pieces back together.

I haven’t always believed in the benefits of helmets or the need for a mandatory helmet law.  In a previous article, “My journey from tennis shoes and sunglasses to ATGATT” I detailed my “journey” to my belief in “All the Gear, All the Time.”

Steve and I both realize that opinions abound on this issue.  Please feel free to comment on this article, we look forward to reading everyone's point of view!

Tom Bachur
Baltimore Motorcycle Travel Examiner

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Comments

  • Lisa 4 years ago

    I agree with the helmet law. Since there is a seatbelt law it only makes sense for the helmet law for motorcycles. It does seem like a no brainer, you have absolutely no protection on your body, why not protect the area statistically known to be injured the most.

  • Cameron- Santa Fe Motorcycle Travel Examiner 4 years ago

    Although I would never so much as ride around a parking lot without a helmet, I do think helmets should be optional. But only if the laws are written so that if you bust your melon and become a vegetable, it is you and only you who are responsible. No lawsuits allowed against manufactures, road construction companies, or any other parties. Personally I think riding without a helmet is just plain DUMB, but different strokes and all that.

  • Patty Davis 4 years ago

    Check out my profile picture and will see someone in a full face helmet that I wear even in the summer in Kentucky. However I don't want to be told I HAVE to wear it. Same with smoking and dietary laws; I don't smoke or over salt my food but I don't want big brother government telling me how to live my life. Like Steve said, it boils down to liberty.

  • Brad 4 years ago

    Let the natural selection process take place. Cars are safer than motorcycles, trucks are safer than cars, walking is safer than riding a bike, etc... If we follow the logic to an extreme, we would all be walking. If we use laws to mandate helmet use because of statics, what next? Will they outlaw motorcycles because they are statistically less safe than cars? Make each licensed driver and their spouse and/or guardian sign over their estate to pay all expenses for the clean up if they don't wear a seat belt or a helmet. And give EMS responders a percentage as a bonus :)

  • Vance 4 years ago

    I'm of the opinion when a state or the fed make a law they should be willing to pay for any monetary consequences IE seat belt causes someone harm they pick up the tab. When you mandate anything .... pay for it. That's not what happens. My Dad rode in a state that had a helmet law he had a wreck and lived as a vegetable for the next 30 years due to brain damage. No helmet would have meant death much simpler. Helmets cause brain damage and there are worse things than death.

  • Merrill 4 years ago

    I believe in personal choice. Comparison between seatbelt and helmet is not valid since a seatbelt can prevent an accident while a helmet has no bearing. I believe that since the state mandates helmet usage, then they should be responsible for any consequences of such actions.

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