Motorcycle helmet laws suck for two reasons. The first reason is that it's nobody's business if I want to hop on my motorcycle and feel the wind in my hair. The government shouldn't be involved in decisions I make about my own safety.
The second reason that helmet laws suck is that helmets suck.
OK, helmets don't really suck, I just can't get used to wearing one. I can't get used to wearing a helmet when I ski, either.
Some people seem to like them, but they give me a headache. Helmets, not the people. Not all of them, anyway. Helmets give me tunnel vision and restrict the movement of my head. I lose my sense of surrounding traffic.
Yeah, let's go with that last one. I lose my sense of surrounding traffic.
Which brings us to the second part of the title, the part about people who insist on telling me I should wear a helmet. Some go so far as to call me stupid for not wearing one.
Like I've never been called stupid before.
It may well be stupid not to wear a helmet, but it's still my choice. Having been divorced twice, I understand that my choices aren't always smart. Some might argue that none of my choices are smart.
That, I guess is the beauty of America. We get to make our own choices, even if they're stupid.
I would concede that some choices are completely inappropriate. It would probably be a very poor choice, for example to walk into the Rock N Roll McDonalds with my beloved Spas 12 assault shotgun. A choice so poor, in fact that it should not be allowed.
After participating in a fund raising event last weekend, I was changing into my riding gear and preparing to mount my 2003 Harley Road Glide. Suddenly, I was verbally assaulted by the wife of the son of the brother of the wife of a friend.
I don't know if you followed that relationship, I'm not sure I did. Whoever she was, she was inordinately concerned about the absence of a helmet among my riding gear.
Underscoring the convoluted nature of our relationship, I couldn't remember the young lady's name. For now, let's just call her "Julie".
Julie began berating me about the helmet thing and yes, she said I was stupid Again, I couldn't really argue the last point.
It was, however a weird intrusion into my life by a relative stranger. I wondered if Julie even knew my name, seeing as how I didn't remember hers.
I also wondered if Julie would have thought me rude if I told her that she was stupid for her breast-feeding choice, assuming her and I disagreed about that part of child rearing.
Most assuredly, though Julie didn't realize the comedy of her diatribe in light of the fact that my daughter is an emergency room physician. I've heard the horrors of the "donor-cycle" from someone much closer to me and much more authoritative than Julie.
It was like hearing Mike Tyson narrate the show, "Cosmos" instead of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Another thing Julie failed to consider is our dissimilarities. Given the differences in our age, gender and life experiences, it would be astonishing if we both had the same risk tolerance.
Life is not without risk and some of us enjoy a greater level of risk than others. It's one of our inalienable rights.
We all know people who enjoy sitting on the couch, eating bon bons and drinking wine out of half gallon jugs. To me, that's not living. It's purgatory.
Risky behavior comes in all forms. Smoking's a risky behavior. So is drinking and over-eating. As Meatloaf said, "Two out of three ain't bad". Choose your poison.
The fact that seat belt laws are universal in America and helmet laws are not speaks to the core of motorcyclists. We are a freedom-loving, rule-breaking bunch and we're not letting anyone take that away from us without a fight.
That's why 5.5 million motorcyclists have been able to push back against helmet laws while 138 million registered car owners just sit back and buckle up.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that helmets can reduce brain injuries in certain types of accidents. NHTSA data also shows a significant increase in the death rate of motorcyclists from 1998-2008. I find the data confusing, at best.
A few years ago, a helmet-wearing motorcyclist was killed in Wauconda (IL) when a woman polishing her nails slammed into her at a stoplight. Read about it here
It's possible that a helmet might save your life if you fly off a motorcycle at 75 mph, but you might spend the rest of your life wishing it didn't.
I have four helmets. I hate them all, but I promise to keep looking for one that I can tolerate.
By the way, Julie, we're riding out to Sandwich, IL for a little sky diving next weekend. You in?
NOTE: The event referred to above is Vision Walk, sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Retinitis Pigmentosa steals the eyesight of about 1 in 4,000 Americans and can start at any age. To find out more, read here .
To contribute to Team StaySee, click here .
NOTE TO "JULIE": I appreciate your concern. Thank you for letting us have a little fun at your expense.
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