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!
Baltimore Motorcycle Travel Examiner
- "Maryland's Mandatory Helmet Law: Two Sides Respond"
- "Is There a Link Between Helmet Laws and the Use of Personal Protective Equipment?"
- "Motorcycle Debates: Helmtets, Riding Gear, Mufflers, Lane Splitting and Stunting"
- "When Motorcycles and Friends Go Down"
- "Guest Columnist: When Friends and Motorcycles Go Down"
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