Every time a helmetless biker dies, .33 lives are saved

Dailies -


helmet_laws.jpg“If helmets reduce the number of deaths from severe brain injury, and if these deaths often involve viable organ donors, the repeal of helmet laws may increase the overall number of donors,” suggests a recent study by Michigan State University entitled, “Donorcycles:  Do Motorcycle Helmet Laws Reduce Organ Donations?” It finds that organ donations due to motor vehicle deaths increase 10% when states repeal helmet laws. “Every death prevented by motorcycle helmet laws results in 0.124 fewer organ donors.”
Describing its purpose, the paper states, “This paper investigates the
possibility of an offsetting societal benefit of riding without a
helmet: do helmetless riders increase organ donation rates?  If helmets
reduce the number of deaths from severe brain injury, and if these
deaths often involve viable organ donors, the repeal of helmet laws may
increase the overall number of donors.”

In its conclusion “Donorcycles” finds that while the number of organs
donated as a result of motor vehicle deaths invariably increases as
helmet laws are repealed, a nationwide elimination of mandatory
motorcycle helmets wouldn’t have a huge impact on the overall number of
organs donated, deaths by natural causes produce 80% of all donated
organs and would, presumably, be a more effective target for growth.

via Freakonomics

Thanks for the tip, Elkins.

  • aeolus

    There is an undeniable pleasure in riding a motorcycle without a helmet…wind in the hair and all that. But today it is just too risky with the roads clogged with dolts and the distracted automotiveist. I was driving on IH-10 thru Philly a while back and was passed by a motorcycle doing about 90…with no helmet. It made my skin crawl.
    But the calculation of the efficacy of helmet laws
    versus the availability of fresh young organs, is cynical in the extreme.

    • V

      You say that like it’s a bad thing.

      • aeolus

        What’s a bad thing? I made several statements in that post. And I meant IH-95 and no I haven’t taken a rap on the head.

  • DoctorNine

    I personally never ride without a brain bucket. Regardless of whether it is permissible to do so or not. I’ve had the things save my life too many times to look on them as optional. And of course, the ER guys still think I’m crazy to ride. Sanity is overrated.

  • sam

    it did 120 today with no helmet and a t shirt on! crawl away skin. i dont know if you have read the hurt report, but it pretty much makes no sense at all to be on a motorcycle in america safety wise. i understand minimizing the risk and all that jazz, but thats what motorcycling is about, at least in america, is doin what you want. the majority of the time i wear a helmet and leathers but i didnt feel like it today. im just glad cops arent moms yet in utah.

  • Keith

    the only thing I find more stupid than helmet laws (cuz a parenting law is retarded) is riding w/ out a helmet. having been clipped by a car on the freeway and my head bouncing off the pavement, I’m glad I wore my helmet or I wouldn’t be able to spell my name right now.

    if a person wants to ride w/ out a helmet, that’s all on them, just be kind enough to have your donor card updated

  • Kerry

    There was legislation several states were pushing through a while back where if you choose to not wear a motorcycle helmet you were automatically giving consent to be an organ donor. I think it died a horrible death due to religious objections (stupid religion always ruining a good thing).

    • DaFoxx

      I’m sorry to hear that the legislation you’re referring to didn’t pass. That sounds like a fantastically good idea! Make helmet laws optional, as long as the rider understands that by deciding not to wear a helmet they have decided to donate what’s left of them, should they die, to someone who needs it.
      As to Religion, I don’t think God (or whatever you choose to call Him!) rode, so I don’t think he weighed in on the helmet issue. If your Religion is against organ donation, wear a helmet. Simple!

  • amsterdam

    I’ve heard that young all male motorcyclists are actually called donors by hospital staff. And when they are waiting for some transplantation organs and it is starting to rain they say it won’t take long anymore for the first to arrive.
    Like sailors off old, who couldn’t swim and didn’t want to learn,maybe we should all stop wearing helmets.
    One strike, you’re out.

  • http://daveconrey.etsy.com daveconrey

    My apologies to patients that need new organs, but I’m pretty happy with keeping mine and living to ride another day.

  • stu

    goin’ helmet-free, “doin what you want” at 120mph means:
    * not caring about the lifelong grief your gory death would inflict on your parents, siblings, partner, children
    * not caring about how your dependents are going to put food on the table or a roof over your head if you’re gone
    * not caring about the trauma your head injuries cause the medics attending the scene and those who try to revive and stabilise you in hospital
    * if you survive, not caring whether you have to drink all your meals through your butt hole for the next 40 years

    that’s cool though. better you remove yourself from the gene pool now rather than later.

  • Meatspin

    I wear my helmet cause all that wind in the face can get annoying. I don’t know how some riders can stand it.
    I personally don’t believe in organ donation for myself either. If hospital staff consider me a donor right off the bat, then obviously they wouldn’t think twice about harvesting my giblets.

    My friends, don’t sign those donor cards. It’s all about the profits.

  • Rob

    IMHO – The ones that freak me out are the riders in t-shirt, shorts, sneakers, girlfriend in flip flops and tank top on the back… both in helmets. I’m sorry… if I went down dressed like that, I wouldn’t want to survive. mmmm… road rash to the bone baby.

    let ‘em ride without helmets if they want, you know they would. organ donors indeed.

  • hjworton

    From a UK perspective, this is a total non-argument.

    Not wearing a lid seems like a bizarre decision, one that has no basis in reality. I can see absolutely no reason to ride a bike without head protection.

    The funny thing is, over here their IS a similar dialogue. It regards the summer wearing of shorts on bikes and, to a lesser extent, jeans. I myself used to ride in jeans. I then crashed in jeans. I have never ridden in them again since. If you crash without a helmet then you may well never get the chance to ride anything other than an electric wheelchair again. Don’t tell me about your ‘freedom’, just use some common sense. Yes, motorcycling is dangerous but it need not be lethal.

    • VV

      Yes, that silly “freedom” thing is so passe.

      • stu

        it is when it’s wheeled out as an excuse for gross stupidity

      • Alfonzo

        Apparently idiocy is all the rage and unfortunately for us, there is no law against it.

  • http://www.youtube.com/gofasterpb riderP5

    Natural selection? Don’t mind if I do…

    I used to have utmost support for helmet laws, but this little study has opened my eyes. Why save the stupid when their meaty organs can save people who might actually be more deserving of a second chance?

    I always enjoy the ride in my full-face just fine… (donor card in hand.)

  • vic

    i saw a biker die in front of me at a stop light..he was obviously a rookie and he did an involuntary stoppie which resulted with him tumbling down head first on the pavement..he died instantly..when he braked he was doing arond 20 km/hour..no helmet..out here is mandatory to wear a helmet..and it’s a good thing..and that study is pushing it..it looks like it came from the Onion network or something..it’s like saying that the end of the holocaust has driven second hand gold teeth prices to a new record high

  • steaminSteven

    wear a helmut, wear all your gear, theres nothing kewl about looking like a tool on the highway @ 90mph wearing nothing but shorts, a t-shirt, and sandles……..

    take this from someone thats crashed on a scooter @ 20kph, broke his collar bone and wacked his head hard enough to still not remeber the accident and the next day afterwards…..

  • Ben

    I’m all for freedom of choice. As someone mentioned, this is a pretty brutal study, but it has some merit. There’s no one out there on a motorcycle that doesn’t realize that a helmet can save their lives. While I personally think it’s a stupid risk to take, many cagers think riding AT ALL is a stupid risk to take.

    That said, in a recent conversation with someone about the importance of proper protective gear, I heard a new (to me) rationale for not wearing any. Something to the effect of how gear gives a false sense of security and is, by some, considered to be a substitute for good technique and alertness at all times. I told him that I don’t disagree that those things (technique and alertness) are more important in avoiding an accident altogether, but I’d rather wear gear so that I’m more likely to have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. He had no comment. I didn’t push the point – he has every right to make his choice. Even if I think it’s tragically flawed.

  • Rob

    Come to think of it, this ties right in to a theory I’ve had for a while… with all the concern about cutting costs in health insurance, they should just take helmet laws (and seat belt laws, for that matter) off the books completely, and replace them with a stipulation that if you are in an accident without them your insurance company may, at it’s sole discretion, refuse coverage for your injuries.

    That way we don’t all have to pay for other peoples stupidity, without limiting their freedom to be stupid.

    • Isaac

      + 1 on your last statement! If that happened then maybe our insurance would go down as much as 50%. My mother-in-law won’t wear her seat belt. LOL, she thinks by moving the seat all the way forward she won’t get hurt.

      Anyways, I always ride with a lid. I crashed once in the mountains. I am sure glad I was wearing one along with a full set of track gear.

      You have to think, if you’re a biker of any sort, you must be crazy. However if your going to join or remain in our flock – be carzy, at least do it smartly. I tease riders who don’t wear helmets. I have approached a few already. None of them ever know what to say – logically anyway.

      And if they do get wild then I guess my helmet + their face would shut them up.

    • Core

      Good Idea!

  • Rick Poush

    the supports of helmet laws keep repeating the cost of medical treatment for those who suffer brain injury due to bike accidents without head protection. these same people refuse to even try to address the even larger cost of treatment for neck and spinal injury of those injured while wearing the helmet. yes helmets can save a life but they can also cause injury as well. this is a personal choice issue and should not be mandatory for any one

    • stu

      i cant believe someone is trying on the ‘personal choice’ argument with the fictional justification that the cost of spine/neck injuries from wearing helmets exceeds the head injuries prevented from wearing one. apart from completely lacking proof this is an absurd suggestion.
      the only justification for ‘personal choice’ is the greater social good through natural selection thread that has run through many of these posts….and here we’ve seen it once again…

  • Isaac

    Oh adding to what I just wrote, guess what I saw a couple of days ago? I saw this guy, no shirt, shorts, gloves and full face Shoei RF and on the back his g/f bikini, no shoes, half shell helmet.
    I was in my cage at the time comming home from the store and I just shook my head. Maybe this is how we thin the heard. Like my rider coach said to me “You can’t fix stupid.”

    • Core

      You also can’t legislate against stupidity either. Yet politicians keep coming up with their laws.. and paper work thinking it will make a hill of beans difference, when it only causes people who try to do right.. a pain in the ass.

  • aeolus

    One of the British MC mags discussed neck braces that are increasingly being worn by motocross competitors and suggested they might become popular with street riders. So the prudent rider will dress in full race spec leathers, neck brace, and helmet to ride down to the local 7-11 for a pack of fags.
    Not going to happen. What’s needed is gear that will be worn and provide protection at the most critical
    areas; head; ribs (lungs);and back. I looked into rib cage protection used by quarterbacks, equestrians, and motocross riders but didn’t find anything that looked usable for street. It’s going to be a calculated risk riding and you have to improve the odds without losing the fun.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The Spidi Defender looks like a good option for chest protection on the street.

  • Dan

    @aeolus,wes – Any word on whether/when the neck-airbag systems used by some racers will make it into street gear? I remember seeing a video of one in action, maybe from Dainese (maybe on this site).

    @ben – I agree about the tendancy to ramp up risk taking in response to added protection. I had a professor explain it like this: “if you don’t think that having airbags in your car causes you to drive more recklessly, imagine how much more cautious you’d be if we took away seatbelts and mounted a spike on your steering wheel!” That said, bicycle helmet laws have shown to reduce fatalities in the long run.

  • geonerd

    This is a good idea. And I’m glad to see there are so many other people who feel the same way I do: Please feel free to excuse yourself from the gene pool.

    I think it could go a step further though. Insurance companies would be able to easily refuse reimbursement for the injuries sustained as a result of not wearing a DOT or SNELL approved helmet. You break it, you buy it.

  • Nick R

    Wow what a charming story..

  • http://cohobot.blogspot.com/ coho

    Wow. Creepy but logical.

  • Incredible

    @Rob – See: The US Military. No seatbelt/helmet = no coverage at Uncle Sam’s discression.

    Good enough for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and CG’ers (Mini-Squids?) is good enough for the rest of us.

  • chili sv

    You can enjoy your freedom to ride without a helmet in all 50 states provided you are on a private road. When you enter a public roadway, public traffic laws apply. That said, it’s comforting to know there’s an increased supply of organs out there should I ever need one and that it won’t be a brain.

  • sam

    the personal choice argument is very important. look at all the people who want to illegalize motorcycles completely and there are plenty. the majority opinion doesnt mean that it has to be law. people have a right to be stupid

  • aeolus

    Those guys on Wall Street were doing what they wanted, and look where it got us! No, we cannot be allowed to do anything we want as such anti-social acts as riding a cycle at 120 mph endangers others. I was watching a film clip on bikerpunks.com that was a memorial to a very handsome young man of about 21, who rode a sport bike with obvious skill. He was killed by a car. So I did a little checking and discovered he was racing at high speed, popped a wheelie, and wobbled into the opposite lane and was hit by a car. Died instantly. Hope no one in the car was injured. His parents of course were grief stricken. The answer is high power sport bikes should not be licensable. Like Cole in the vid says, they belong on a track.

  • sam

    and assault guns shoud be destroyed because us dumb americans cant handle them. before long they take our pistols and there goes one of our most important rights. UNCLE SAM IS NOT MY MOM. the safety you want comes with a disintegration of my rights that i will not ignore. its better to die on a freeway than to be locked in a cage with a diaper and a pacifier

    • amsterdam

      uh, sam, I think you should listen to your mom.

    • aeolus

      They’ll be coming for your guns soon Sam. Whatcha gonna do?

    • Rob

      Now that we’ve gone completely off topic…

      “our most important rights” eh? Ever actually read the second amendment? Here it is, direct quote: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

      Now, do you want your gun so that you can join up in a “well regulated militia” if the need occurs, or do you just want it just in case somebody randomly decides to come into your home and you’re able to get it out of your locked case and load it in time to do anything useful(you don’t just keep it out in the open do you, think of the kids! <\sarcasm>)

      Don’t get me wrong, I love guns and shooting… but the vast majority of people who blindly whine about their second amendment rights really have no clue what they’re talking about.

  • sam

    im not talking personal protection. im talking political dissent. most important in my mind. because sometimes your government gets twisted and rotten on the inside, and it needs to be cleansed.

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    thomas jefferson