Tourism, tax dollars and helmet laws

Dailies -



“Mine is the only bill that will create new jobs and revenue for Nevada without raising taxes,” says state senator Don Gustavson. The bill he’s trying to pass? One that will modify Nevada’s vehicle code to allow motorcycle riders 21 and up to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. Gustavson predicts benefits including increased tourism, more money spent at casinos, new jobs at new motorcycle dealers and nothing less than “an economic boom.” All that just for the chance to feel your hair blow in the wind?

There’s actually some precedent to Gustavson’s claims. One of his chief goals is to up attendance at Nevada’s Laughlin River Run, a pirate convention that’s seen its attendance drop from 70,000 in the middle of last decade to just 50,000 last year. It’s unclear if parrots or bitches were included in that total. A similar event, the Thunder in the Valley assless leather chap rally, saw its attendance spike by 30,000 the year after Pennsylvania repealed its helmet law. The thinking is, that more eye patch and peg leg sales will put more dollars in the pockets of Nevada’s government and citizens.

Less immediate, but more impressive, is the increase in motorcycle sales predicted by Gustavson. In the five years after Florida repealed its mandatory helmet law in 2000, motorcycle sales in the state increased by $2.8 billion. The senator predicts a $56 million increase in Nevada in the first year alone, if his bill is passed.

“I think a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in the first year is realistic,” quantifies Gustavson. “Five percent a year after that.”

Those numbers sound good. Since 2005, motorcycle sales nationwide have fallen from 1.1 million annually to just 439,000 last year. In all likelyhood, Nevada is down by an even more significant percentage. Over-ambitious expansion saw much of the state’s tourist industry left with huge debt and too few actual tourists when the bottom fell out of the economy back in 2008.

But, Gustavson has detractors in surprising places.

The organizers of the Laughlin River Run only predict a slight increase in attendance should the helmet law be repealed, nothing like the 30,000 boost experienced in Pennsylvania. Las Vegas Harley-Davidson, the state’s largest dealer, is equally cautious, only figuring the bill would give them a slight increase in sales.

Less suprising places too. “We are the ones who pick them up after their accidents, there is no doubt in my mind that helmets save lives,” stated a lobbyist for Professional Firefighters of Nevada.

In 1999, when Florida still required helmets, 164 motorcyclists were killed. In 2000, when the helmet law was repealed, that number climbed to 241. That number increased to 532 by 2008. There’s no data on the numbers of non-fatal injuries.

The problem with those deaths and injuries is that they come with costs both social and fiscal. By choosing not to protect themselves, riders place a burden on society for their medical care.

“These people want to exercise their rights,” says Nevada’s Dr. John Filds, who’s opposed to the repeal. “I want to exercise my right not to pay for their medical care. There is no such thing as unpaid medical care. You and I pay for their accidents.”

Your right to swing your unhelmeted head ends where another man’s wallet begins?

The average cost of treating the injuries of a helmeted motorcyclist in Nevada is $96,700. Unhelmeted riders? $112,500. One hospital in the state alone had to write off $45 million in unpaid treatment costs for injured motorcyclists.

Would the potential increases to tourism and motorcycle sales revenue outweigh the financial burden of increased treatment costs? Would the average Nevada citizen put enough money in their pockets from extra bike dollars to offset the increase in their insurance premiums?

Nevada isn’t the only state currently looking at repealing its mandatory helmet law. Only 20 states and Washington DC currently require all riders to wear helmets at all times. No helmet laws of any kind exist in Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire. The rest allow riders to make the choice once they’ve reached a certain age. Now, Oregon is considering dropping that total of mandatory helmet states to 19.

Oregon state representative Andy Olson doesn’t want to see the mandatory helmet law there repealed because of the potential increase on motorcycle sales our tourism, he wants it repealed to increase safety. Wait, what? According to him, it “would allow motorcycle riders to hear better and see more.”

Impaired peripheral vision is frequently cited as a reason not to wear a motorcycle helmet. We’ve never heard the better hearing argument before, likely because we’re partially deaf from years of riding bikes. The thing is, it’s a total myth that helmets reduce peripheral vision.

Most helmet standards, including ECE, Snell and DOT set the minimum set the minimum degree (as measured in one direction from a vertical plane running down the center of our face) of sideways visibility for full-face helmets at 105°. It’s generally accepted that you can only use about 90° of that sideways vision. While you can perceive the edges of the visor apperture at the extremes of your vision range, the ability to see that far sideways essentially goes unused by the human brain.

Motorcyclists who want to ride helmet free are probably familiar with unused portions of the human brain. That’s summed up much more eloquently than we can manage by that old Buell ad up top.

Sources: Don Gustavson, Las Vegas Review Journal, Oregon Live, Democrat Herald,, Gazette Times

  • aristurtle

    Let’s have a nice compromise, here: how about if you crash your bike without a helmet, that’s an automatic opt-in for organ donation?

    • robotribe

      OR, no coverage or fiscal liability on the health provider or government for medical procedures such as cosmetic surgeries, facial reconstruction or any other “put-my-nose-back-on-and-close-the-hole-up-in-your-head” type of procedures for non-helmeted riders who are part of an accident. Send the family the bill.

      Fair is fair. Don’t make someone else pay for your freedom of choice.

      • aristurtle

        That won’t work; you can’t have a hospital demand proof of ability to pay (from an unconscious person!) before starting treatment. Or at least I wouldn’t want to live in such a country: “oh shit I forgot my wallet this morning” should not equal “the paramedics will leave you on the side of the road” in any sane society.

        And it follows then that some subset of the people will be unable to pay, so the hospital will be on the hook for any sunk costs in stabilizing them.

        But hey, it’s not all bad, right?

        • robotribe

          I’m not talking about proof of ability to pay determining whether or not someone should be treated. That’s ridiculous.

          I’m talking about financial burdens POST-procedure and who would be responsible for those. In this case, I’d suggest different liabilities for non-helmeted riders who sustain head related injuries.

      • Datrebor

        Wait a minute we all are paying for peoples freedom of choice. We are paying for people with diabetes that are over weight. We are paying for peoples freedom of choice for their choice of hobbies that are dangerous, even the ones out on a boat fishing with out life vests.

  • Myles

    Anyone who doesn’t ride full face or modular is an idiot.

    Any state who has a fucking seatbelt law but no helmet law is run by idiots.

    • tomwito

      F L O R I D A ! ! ! Yes! You are correct sir!
      The cops in the town where I work are now sitting at the exits of the interstate and looking in as you slowly pass by to see if you got your belt on. I know this because one motioned to me because he couldn’t see my belt because I was wearing a black shirt.

    • an idiot

      i am an idiot.

    • Datrebor

      Ok then you really like New Hampshire they have NO seat belt law and if your 19 and older no helmet law. I agree with you any state that will allow choice for adults on helmets but force seat belts is run by idiots. First the helmets then seat belts. There are 2 states with no helmet laws, 27 that allow over 21 and some 19 to not wear a helmet and 2 with no penalty for over 21 not to wear a helmet.

  • Todd

    If Oregon state representative Andy Olson wants the helmet law repealed so it “would allow motorcycle riders to hear better and see more”, I guess he’s in favor of repealing the no handheld devices/texting law while driving a vehicle in his state too. This would allow Oregon drivers to concentrate more on their surroundings/other traffic around them.

    • robotribe

      The “see more” part is utter bullshit.

      As far as “hearing more”, that gets cancelled out because one needs battleship-canon-loud aftermarket pipes to drown out every other sound around them.

      Didn’t you hear? Loud pipes SAVE lives!!!


      • Datrebor

        Really? I have a full face helmet and I can move my head easier and see more with out the helmet then with it. The loud pipes are for those that can’t bother to look for bikes they can at least hear them coming. Besides what does not wearing a helmet has to do with texting while driving? Nothing.

  • Michael

    Correlation != Causation

    Get some statistics training, bitchez

    The five years after 2000 were a credit-induced boom. Sales of EVERYTHING went up.

    Hey, that’s the cure for our economic problems. In the five years after helmet repeal in Florida the price of my crappy house doubled! Repeal helmet laws = increase in house prices!

    • NickP

      love the comic, xkcd is hilarious!

  • Case

    Good article. I agree with helmet laws primarily because I can’t opt-out of paying for the idiot that crashes his bike without a lid. If I didn’t have to pay for that, I’d say let idiots be idiots.

    How the hell did PA get an extra 30k people to show up for it’s ass chaps rideout after the repeal? Is that due to population density?

    • Todd

      While the number seems really high, I wonder if that number counts out of state riders as well as in state riders. It’s held in Johnstown so riders could have come from neighboring states. The repeal of the helmet law in PA was a big deal to those who wanted it repealed. They rallied every year it seemed at the State Capitol to get it repealed. I worked with a woman whose son died on his bike on the way to a rally to oppose instituting the helmet law in PA. He wasn’t worrying a helmet. Irony.

  • robotribe

    Oh, and as far as the attendance drop for Nevada’s Laughlin River Run, I’d venture it has more to do with fewer pirates due to a decrease in enrollment into the club as well as those leaving the fold because the economy doesn’t jive with their “my house is a magical ATM” life strategies anymore. Their bikes are now supplying the used showroom floors and Craigslist pages.

  • NickP

    Haha the Buell ad caught my eye right away, I have that book somewhere…
    Nevada is missing one very important point, and that’s how much a big fat June bug stings when it hits you right in the mouth at 70 mph. That’s why I wear a full face!

  • FiveG

    Ummmm. If “come here and you can ride without a helmet” were a true tourist draw, Connecticut would be a big league motorcyclist’s destination. Sorry, kids, I like riding around the Nutmeg State, but I ain’t been seeing a lot of Texas (or Carolina, or Pennsylvania, or Jersey, or . . . ) plates on bikes here.

    • mb

      us california folk take trips to arizona to ride sans-helmet

  • Will

    The cost argument might be a little misleading.

    Helmet-less riders might cost a lot in the short-term. But they will, on average, die much sooner. These people will have no need for any of the medical care that the elderly all need (blood-pressure medication, cataract surgery, hip-replacement, etc).

    This is similar to the anti-smoking argument. Smokers on average, die much sooner than non-smokers. The costs right at the end of their lives is frequently steep, but they avoid all of the normal expenses associated with aging.

    I do enjoy a smoke after I stop my ride and remove my helmet.

    • Wes Siler

      Interesting, I’d never thought about it that way.

    • parkwood60

      I hadn’t thought of that. I’m a big fan of Baby Boomers taking up dangerous hobbies so they don’t end up collecting SS and Medicare. I mean, if they don’t we are likely to have to reduce SS with a “Logans Run” type law where you collect it for 5 years, then then go up to the big crystal sparkly thing in the sky.

      • Wes Siler

        It could be like Battle Royale, in reverse.

        • DAVID

          why do i even subscribe to HFL with its constant Boomer bashing? me being one. i guess because I love bikes.

          • Wes Siler

            Don’t worry, we’re going to use that money to pay for your retirement at the golf resort in Arizona.

            In all seriousness, the entire motorcycle industry — every product, every company — is geared specifically towards serving you. We’re not bashing boomers, we’re simply pointing out the flaws in that exclusive focus.

            • DAVID

              >every product, every company — is geared specifically towards serving you.

              i like that!

            • Kevin

              Tell that to the masses of twentysomethings on 600cc supersports all around me in Huntington Beach. I take your point on cruisers and “sport” tourers, but easily 3 out of 4 bikes I see locally are supersports.

    • David

      That reminds me of a Planet Money episode where they covered the story of anti-smoking lobbyists arguing that smoking costs the government. Phillip Morris did some research and found that, actually, smoking *saves* money (due to early death, etc). Lobbyists jump on them saying “Phillip Morris thinks early death is good”. Etc… The full story + episode is here:

    • robotribe

      Good point. As long as those long term cumulative costs associated with aging aren’t less overall compared to costs associated with head injuries, then I’d say you just won the Interwebs for the day.

    • R.Sallee

      Also consider that a helmet-less rider is more likely to die, essentially $0 in medical costs, in the same accident that might otherwise severely injure him and cost a lot to treat.

      I’ve no idea if statistically helmet-less riders cost more or less in medical expenses, but definitely the simplification of the argument–not just in this post but in most helmet debates–does not suffice.

  • Will

    (apparently, I fail at replying correctly. I meant to pile on to parkwood60′s comment. Sorry)

    That’s exactly what this feller says:

    “The reason the number is low is that for private pensions, Social Security, and Medicare — the biggest factors in calculating costs to society — smoking actually saves money. Smokers die at a younger age and don’t draw on the funds they’ve paid into those systems.”

    And he has a fancy title and stuff: Frank Sloan, an economics professor and the director of the Center for Health, Policy, Law and Management at Duke’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

    I don’t think this has been looked at enough to actually settle the argument, but it’s enough to challenge the commonly accepted notion that we all have to pay a lot of money for reckless fools.

  • stickfigure

    I’m going to chime in with an unpopular opinion: I would like to see helmet laws repealed not just on libertarian grounds but because there are times when I feel it’s reasonable to ride without a helmet.

    Believe me, I’m an almost-ATGATT kinda rider, and when I go out to do road combat with the Evil Four-Treaded Beast I suit up like a ninja turtle. But as someone who has spent a year dodging crazy Central American drivers, I gotta say it’s not all combat. Sometimes you’re in the middle of rural f*ck-all and you just need to move your bike a few blocks. Or you want to make a slow circuit of town before you decide on which of the three motels you are going to land at.

    Is this more dangerous than fully suiting up? Sure, but it’s not more dangerous than doing the same activity on a bicycle. And it’s certainly less dangerous than the (fully suited) high-speed antics in the twisties that got me there. You have to put risk in perspective.

    Helmet laws don’t make the distinction between relatively innocuous situations (plonking around in backwater towns with population 50) and the concrete kill zones in and around cities.

    I wonder if there is some sort of reasonable compromise, like “helmets only required on major highways”.

    • aristurtle

      You’re actually more likely to be hit in a city intersection than on an interstate highway. And either is more likely than getting into a single-vehicle accident in the twisty backroads. I can keep my speed within my limits on the twisties; it’s other people hitting me that I’m worried about.

      (But then, I wear my helmet on a bicycle, too; it’s saved me once.)

      • stickfigure

        The key word there is “city”.

        The vast majority of the US is not city.

        The vast majority of “places that are fun to ride” are not in cities.

        Rural Nevada has about as much in common with SF or NYC as it does with the near side of the moon.

        • Myles

          80% of the US population lives in urban or suburban areas.

          Backwater towns with population 50 also have a higher rate of reckless driving and drunken driving.

          Making a slow circuit of town looking for a hotel is a pretty easy place to get into an accident, a huge portion of accidents take place in parking lots.

          You should always wear a helmet, dude.

          Also, “Libertarian Grounds” is probably the worst way to start an argument if you want more than 25% of the people to even listen to you. I’m not saying it’s right (everyone has a right to be heard), but most people will write you off as a complete idiot the second the word leaves your mouth. Bring it up with your buddies who want to start militias and stuff, but keep it away from the genpop.

          • stickfigure

            Dude, put that risk in perspective. I *guarantee* you that a helmetless slow circuit of a rural town would not even rank on the list of “most dangerous things I will do this week”.

            In terms of lifetime risk exposure, this just doesn’t rate.
            And I’m a non-smoker.

          • R.Sallee

            Yeah man don’t talk about liberties unless you wanna sound like a crazy person. Only crazy people value liberty.

            • Myles


              2.4 Government Finance and Spending

              All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.

              I mean seriously, is that a logical statement? People who truly believe in the LP are one step removed from teenage kids drawing anarchy symbols in their 8th grade Civics textbook. LP is all idealistic bullshit that isn’t feasible in the modern world.

              • R.Sallee

                1. I don’t ascribe myself to any political party. 2. By “Libertarian grounds” he clearly was not referring to tax code. 3. The United States existed for quite a long time without the IRS.

    • Kirill

      I don’t understand this argument at all. It takes 15 seconds to put on a helmet and you can bash your dome open just as easily if you’re doing 15 or 55.

      If I’m turning the engine on, I’m not getting on the bike without a helmet. My melon is worth is too much for that.

      • stickfigure

        You’ve clearly never tried motorcycle touring in the hot, humid parts of the world.

        The risk/effort ratio must factor in a realistic assessment of the actual risk involved. There risk of riding around the block in a rural environment is considerably less than many other risks we take – riding twisties hard on public roads, splitting traffic, riding a bicycle on city streets, getting blotto in a bar crawl.

        I have an additional concern here, which is that getting religious about ATGATT seems to make people blind to the real risks of motorcycles. Here’s a quick quiz for you:

        Whose risk of sudden unintended death is higher?

        1) Country weekend warrior who spends every saturday riding the hills buck naked.

        2) ATGATT city commuter who spends 1.5 hours every M-F fighting city and freeway traffic.

        • Sean Smith

          Whoever has statistics on their side. Good luck finding those numbers though.

        • Kirill

          Ignoring the fact that your post has nothing to do with mine (at no point did I mention ATGATT, just that I always wear a helmet), I’ve ridden in full leathers in triple-digit heat (jacket was perforated, thankfully) and while its not something I’d subject myself to regularly, it wasn’t unbearable. But that’s neither here nor there.

          I reckon the risk of “sudden, unintended death” is higher for naked weekend warrior because he’s likely going a lot faster and paying a lot less attention than the geared-up commuter.

          And since this is about lids rather than ATGATT and we seem to like anecdotes, here are a couple: I’ve been in two urban wrecks. Both fairly low speed and both times I walked away. I wouldn’t be here making this post if I hadn’t been wearing a lid.

          I generally support revoking helmet laws with the caveat that if you get in a wreck without a helmet, you’re automatically considered an organ donor and your insurance company is not obligated to pay for any head-related treatment besides basic trauma treatment.

      • HammSammich

        “you can bash your dome open just as easily if you’re doing 15 or 55.”

        Really good point. My only spill was a gravel induced high-side at about 15-20mph in my in-laws suburban neighborhood w/ no traffic around. I lost contact on the traction gravel that had been laid down over the winter, didn’t brake, but rolled off the throttle enough to pitch me over the bike. Thankfully, I was wearing a full face helmet, because I hit the chin bar so hard the helmet deformed and the visor popped off. All in all, I walked the bike back, suffering only some sprained wrists…had I not been wearing a full face helmet, I’d have likely lost much of my face…or worse.

  • BN.

    What about the loss in revenue for $50 non-DOT kraut hats?

  • scottydigital

    Wow, this is obviously a topic of interest for many. For me, getting on a bike without a helmet or getting into a car without a seatbelt just feel weird anymore. I really do not like doing either, but I do care about my wife, parents, etc. I do not do it for myself, I do it for my family. That is how I rationalize it anyhow.

  • joshua

    I lived in nh. Never rode farther than to the other end of the parking lot without a helmet on. Course there were pirates a plenty who went without.

    As far as peripheral vision, I am a big fan of seeing as far around me as I can. Size of the view port is a big factor in what helmet I purchase(along with fit, weight and certs of course). Going from a hjc cl-sp to a nexx xr1r was noticeable and I think made me a safer rider in the city.

  • cynic

    Nice article. It was the Straw that made me finally pay for the content.

    I waffle back and forth on this topic. I just know I would not be here if it wasn’t for my full face lid that I wear without fail, along with all my other gear. The only downside to wearing gear is that after a 70mph highside, I had no good scars for the contest last year…

    • Wes Siler

      Sweet, guess Sean earned the physical and mental abuse we pay him then.

      • cynic

        March has been a good month for you guys content wise… can’t point to anything specific, just over all felt like it was finally time after months of sitting on the fence.

        Or maybe I got sick of feeling like I had to check the site every hour so I wouldn’t miss anything.

        • Wes Siler

          Ha, I actually feel like it’s been a slow month for content. There’s been an awful lot happening behind the scenes (like huge, big picture stuff) and a bunch of personal life things getting in the way. The upside is that I’m moving to LA in about 30 days, which means more bikes, more adventures, more access and just more fun.

          • robotribe

            Pro: lane splitting
            Con: Smog

          • contender

            Sweet. I can’t wait for the parties atop the American Apparel factory.

  • John
  • Gregory

    Crashing scares me. I’ve crashed three times: once, low-speed (I was looking at the clutch pedal) into the back of a jeepney; once, low-speed, passing a line of cars along a loose-surface gravel shoulder; once, low-speed in my neighbourhood on a large ice patch.

    I wear a Nolan open-face or else an HJC modular; armoured jacket; armoured boots; and gloves, of course. Ear plugs, too. I’ve never considered armoured pants to be required, though I wear Stiglitz goat-skin leathers to keep the rain off. I wear a full-on reflective vest, too.

    Any thoughts about armoured pants? Required? Suggested?

    I’d wear a plastic yarmulke “helmet” on a 90cc scooter to go to the grocery store. I wear full armour to go the 5 miles to work. And I always put the extra helmet and the extra armour jacket on the girlfriend.

    Portland, OR
    2008 KLR 650 w. milkcrate

    • Sean Smith

      I’m a big ATGATT guy, but you probably wouldn’t know it just looking at me. I wear T-Pro armor in my alpinestars jeans, and unless I point it out, nobody really notices. It’s saved my knee when I got smacked by a moron in a mini-van too. The more serious pants have hip armor too. You don’t usually think of your hips as something that needs a lot of protecting, but it seems like they get smacked around pretty good in at least half my crashes.

    • cynic

      For anything more than a run around town I wear leg protection. (I wear gloves, boots, lid and jacket all the time). With my last crash, I’m a believer. I’m pretty sure the road rash on top of the broken leg would have been a bit too much.

      Just find something you’re comfortable in and you think looks good, because as much as we would like to pretend otherwise if you don’t like it you won’t wear it.

    • Mark D

      Pants are usually the most pain in the ass gear to wear, at least for me. I have some A* jeans with Knox knee pads in them that I wear if I’m going any appreciable distance, a pair of full-on textile, super ugly, but comfy and safe, touring pants.

      But if I’m just going over to a buddies house, or a restaurant or something, in the city, I’ll just wear jeans.

      I’m never without earplugs, though. I learned that lesson years before I started riding bikes. Being a musician does that.

      • Sean Smith

        It took me a few 400+ mile canyon days to teach me the ear plug and tinted shield lessons. Too much input fries your brain, and your eyes eventually get sunburned. There were a few times where I made it to the bed, got my boots off, and passed out still wearing my suit and back protector.

  • Brammofan

    I wear an AGV Miglia modular helmet, precisely because of all the flak I caught from the HFL commenters when I appeared on these pages sporting my $40 HJC open face (with a windscreen) helmet.
    If HFL ever recommended any gear that cost less than one of my child’s yearly tuition bills, I’d consider buying it, too. Alas, this will likely get worse over the next few months when Wes moves from the second most expensive city to live in the US, to the first most expensive city to live in the US. The choices will likely change from death-metal studded-leather jackets with fringe and removable CE armor, to organic bees-wax injected virgin-grown cotton jackets with removable CE armor made from recycled soda bottles. Thank goodness for unfashionable but affordable FieldSheer Mesh jackets from my local Motorcycle Closeouts store.

    BTW, I love the idea that laws allowing people to choose whether or not to wear helmets actually end up saving all of us money in the long run due to early death. The logic is impeccable, if not a little bit creepy.

    • Mark D

      Ha, I rock the cheap, vented FieldSheer pants too. $100 closeout special FTW!

  • Dennis

    Has anyone ever found a really well-argued case against mandatory helmets? I keep searching and what I find are all either you’re-not-the-boss-of-me! and the-wind-in-your-hair-is-awesome!

    Somebody, somewhere must have done better than that.

    • mb

      aren’t those the basically the same arguments for getting on a motorcycle in the first place? we can say its the better fuel economy or that it shortens our commute, blah, blah, blah….but when it gets down to it, we ride because it’s fun and is worth the risk.

      i agree that taxpayers shouldnt have to pay for my adding extra risk, but if i like the idea of dying more than getting mangled and living through it and i wanna ride without a helmet, leave me alone.

      • Myles

        People ride motorcycles because of “you’re not the boss of me” and “the wind in your hair is awesome”?

        Who are those people? PolySci majors and poets?

        I ride motorcycles because it’s fucking fun, and it’s just as fun with a helmet on. It’s not like fucking without a condom.

      • R.Sallee

        Good answer, mb.

        We ride motorcycles because we want to, in spite of the danger. If it harms only ourselves, we should be able to ride helmet-less because we want to, in spite of the danger.

        You think it’s too dangerous? That’s fine, your risk stops there. For most people, their risk stops before even getting on a bike. Your risk aversion shouldn’t determine the legality of something that doesn’t affect you.

        I have zero desire to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, not worth the risk and I don’t mind the helmet at all (in fact I like the quiet of helmet + earplugs). But that’s my choice, my decision. Also my choice to wear a one-piece Aerostich, leather gloves and boots, and a full-face every time I go to the grocery store.

        • BeastIncarnate

          Agreed, though I think the point of debate is whether or not riding helmet-less only harms the rider. Of course, I’m not sure how many rider deaths it would take to feel a significant impact on my taxes and, then, how great the impact would be.

          • R.Sallee

            In my opinion, 1) it’s not a solid argument until there are actual calculations of public costs associated with riding without a helmet–it is all speculation that we have to pay for their injuries, and 2) I don’t think we should be paying for people’s self-induced injuries anyway–ride without a helmet, that’s your risk, deal with it. Should we have to pay for people that eat unhealthy? Smoke? What about us idiots that climb on motorbikes for no rational reason?

            • Dennis

              The core argument that it only risks the rider and nobody else is easily refuted in a number of ways — psychological harm, financial burden on society, even negative influence on minors by portraying risk taking as “cool”. You could try to argue that the burden on others is acceptably small, if you wish, but if you say it’s zero, it’s hard to take you seriously.

              Half a Life is a memoir that illustrates how much harm it causes to a driver who kills another person, even if it is not the driver’s fault. It can actually ruin your life. It’s only one example of how everyone has at least *some* responsibility not to force innocent bystanders to participate in your own death. Even witnessing the death of another person is a psychological harm. If you’re going to increase the odds that innocent people might suffer that harm, what are you offering them in return?

              You can, after all, ride helmetless on private roads, if you’re willing to pay the liability insurance, or you own the land yourself. But that is unaffordable to most people. Because riding without a helmet is costly. QED.

              Of course, driving a car is dangerous too, and car drivers risk their own lives and the lives of others. One of the reasons to require helmets is to reduce the size of the motorcyclists’ risk to something acceptably close to that of other users of the public road. Even with a helmet, it’s 30+ times greater per mile, so motorcyclists are already imposing a on others, and offering very little to them in return. Slightly less traffic congestion, maybe, but since most riders are out there for pleasure, not commuting, they’re actually adding to traffic, not subtracting.

              I wouldn’t argue that we have to ban all risk-taking, but as soon as other people are involved, event peripherally, then other people have some right to draw the line somewhere.

              • R.Sallee

                It doesn’t take much imagination to see how dangerous this line of thinking is. You’d make America’s founders weep.

                • Dennis

                  The problem with a slippery slope argument is that most Americans have lived with helmet laws for years, and nothing bad happened. So you have to try to scare them with only a hypothetical “danger”.

                  As for the founders… well, nobody has even wasted their time trying to say helmet laws are unconstitutional. And most of the political opposition to helmets comes from the political right, where “strict constructionism” is the watchword: they frown, to say the least, on inventing Constitutional rights that aren’t explicitly there.

  • MotoRandom

    Ah, our tax dollars hard at work. I’m too tired today to go digging out all of the hard facts to back this up, so if you want to spend a couple of hours wading through numbers go to and look for “mortality rates”. Basically, helmet laws are do-gooder bullshit. If you acknowledge that they are safety legislation and preach that they will save lives and therefore necessary, you are more than likely a hypocrite. If you really care about passing laws to save lives, helmet laws should be WAY down your list. Here’s where you need to start:

    Outlaw Tobacco. Seriously outlaw it, like the death penalty for anyone who grows it or sells it. Heart disease and cancer are the number one killers in the U.S. More than a million people a year. Number one cause of both of these? Cigarettes. Hundreds of thousands of Americans die from tobacco use every year. They are the only product that can be legally sold that when used correctly kills one in three users. The societal cost is brutal. If we’re going to pass laws to save lives, they have to go.

    Outlaw free sale of Alcohol. If you are one of those rare individuals that uses it correctly to support heart health, good for you. That’s one drink a day. You can have a prescription to pick it up in limited amounts. The rest of the consumption going on is dangerous and deadly. Here’s a nice little tidbit from the CDC report: “In 2007 a total of 23,199 persons died of alcohol-induced causes in the United States”. That’s just from drinking. No homicides or accidents or other doing of stupid shit. Add those in and the number almost doubles.

    Okay, right there we just saved a half of million lives a year. How much did the Florida death rate go up again? Hmmm, 368 more died per year comparing 99 to 08. Did all of those 368 die from head injuries because they were not wearing a helmet? Or did the number go up because more people started riding motorcycles during that period? I believe that was addressed further up in the thread. Let’s skip that tit-for-tat right now and move on to saving lives with helmets! According to the CDC, 52,000 people die in the average year due to traumatic head injuries. In 2007 there were 5,124 motorcycle fatalities. I think it’s safe to assume some of those were due to blood loss, burns and other causes. Oh yeah, and head trauma WHILE wearing a helmet. Can’t forget that one. It’s hard to find exact numbers here so let’s pull one out of our ass. Let’s say 2000 of those were lidless pirates and squids, dead by their own stupidity. Well what about those other 50,000? Almost 6000 from assault. If someone is going to shoot you in the head or hit you with a bat, try to have a helmet on. Almost 10,000 from falls. I know you ATGATT guys are wearing your helmets in the shower and while going up and down the stairs in your home, but what about the rest of you? What’s your excuse? Let’s see here, motor vehicle accidents: 16,400. So we remove our 2000 idiots and we have 14000+ dead from head injuries in automobiles. 7 times as many people die from head injuries in cars as do from motorcycles? And there is no helmet laws for cars and trucks? What the fuck?

    So yeah, what we usually get with the whole helmet law debate is huge heaping piles of bullshit called “common sense” and no real meaningful data that shows that “motorcycle helmet laws save lives”. The statistical data that backs up this argument is minuscule. Again, spend a couple of hours wading through all of this data at the CDC and you start to get a good idea why there is no true effort to save lives. It’s really just a smoke and mirror show. I didn’t even touch on the whole McDonalds argument. Don’t think that the obesity epidemic is not going to have huge “societal costs”.

    You what helmets are good for? Keeping the skin on your face. If you survive the crash, you really don’t want to spend 15 hours in surgery having your mess of a face reconstructed to a mere lumpy shadow of what it used to be. That’s why I wear mine. Full face, every ride. But come on now. If you really want to save lives related to motorcycling, the only logical thing to do is to outlaw motorcycles. Nobody rides, then nobody gets hurt or dies. Pretty simple really. Any one here in favor of that?

    • isambard

      You fail to understand how probability works. Many,many times more people fall over or drive a car on any given day than crash a motorcycle. The question is not how many people die in motorcycle accidents versus falls or auto crashes, but how likely are you to have an accident while doing any given activity, and how much more likely are you to die if you’re wearing/not wearing a helmet?

      In other words, if you crash a motorcycle without a helmet, you’re probably more likely to die than if you crash a car without a helmet, or fall in the shower without a helmet. And you’re arguably more likely to have an accident in the first place.

      You’re right that risk is inherent in motorcycling, but that doesn’t make it “bullshit” for motorcyclists to try to mitigate the risk, or for society to do the same, given that it can end up on the hook when things go wrong. Equally, just because a motorcyclist or society seek to limit unnecessary risk, it doesn’t automatically follow that they need to quit\ban motorcycling.

      The real question is, in any given motorcycle accident, would you be safer with or without a helmet? I don’t know the definitive answer to that question, but the statistics you cite don’t address it either, and like you I’m happy to go with common sense and my full-face helmet in the meantime.

      • MotoRandom

        No, I understand quite well how probabilty works. You just ignored the point I was trying to make. So, let’s got to NHTSA publication DOT HS 811 159 on motorcycle safety. To address your point: “Per vehicle mile, motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely to than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash” So yeah, absolutely correct. No doubt about it. But what about this: “NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists’ lives in 2008, and that 823 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets” So, even less than the 2000 I estimated. The 15,000 who died in cars, their lives don’t matter to you? That’s an acceptable risk because most car crashes don’t have injuries? That’s a little callous. Okay, just forget about the tens of thousands who die from head injuries having nothing to do with motorcyclces.

        What about smokers? Does your “society needs to limit unnecesary risk” apply to them? I think you could make an argument that motorcycles serve a valid purpose. They are a cheap transportation option and much greener than SUVs. They serve a purpose in a functioning society. Not so with cigarettes. According to the CDC, smoking kills 443,000 Americans every year. Even scarier, they figure about 38,000 a year die from second hand smoke. 8.6 million live with serious illness caused by smoking.

        How can you claim that supporting helmet laws is a noble thing while ignoring the mass amounts of deaths, suffering and costs associated with other risk behaviors? The mental disconnect is almost painful. Like I originally stated, helmet laws are do-gooder bullshit. Wearing a full face helmet is a really good idea and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to. But forcing people who don’t want to is pretty close to pointless. It’s needless government intrusion. Or if you like, it’s selective enforcement. Which is illegal and considered immoral for a very good reason. Harrassing the shit out of a minority population while ignoring far larger culprits is just plain wrong.

        • Dennis

          We did actually ban alcohol. The reason we repealed Prohibition wasn’t because we decided we liked all the deaths from alcohol. It was because we realized it was unenforceable, and created a black market ruled by violent organized crime. The same argument is used to decriminalize other drugs: not that we think taking heroin is acceptable, but that prohibition causes greater harm than good.

          Al Capone’s gangsters trying to control the un-helmet market have never yet appeared in states and countries with mandatory helmets, so why worry? Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are an irrelevant comparison.

          Cars do kill 40,000 people a year in the US, and they pollute, and they make us dependent on foreign oil, but they also offer vast, measurable benefits to society. Society currently accepts that trade off, although there is a lot of interest in alternatives. Riding without a helmet doesn’t offer society the same benefits that we get from automobiles, so it’s not so easy to justify the harm.

          The stuff about helmets not saving lives is flat-earther B.S. and honestly not worth my time. No offense, but seatbelts do save lives, fluoride does prevent cavities, cigarettes do cause cancer, Obama was born in Hawaii, and the Earth is round. Realistically, you shouldn’t be too surprised when most normal people you meet take proven facts for granted and don’t want to bicker with you over them.

        • isambard

          A total smoking ban wouldn’t be enforceable. But banning it in bars did stop me smoking, so I guess I’m thankful for that.

          I don’t think requiring helmets in cars is an appropriate response to the risk level, since driving is, according to your figures, 37 times safer than riding a motorbike.

          I just can’t get that upset about being forced to wear a helmet on a motorbike.

  • eric

    What puts more money in the states pockets, a $200 helmet or a $6000 funeral?

    • Archer

      Try $9,000, which I looked up as the average in NV.

      If you take the FL increased-death number and apply it that’s more than $4.5 million in the pockets of undertakers- a known powerful political lobby.

      OK, I made that last part up, but you get the point.

  • T Diver

    What a sad place for states to be looking for more money.

    • isambard

      Seriously. Although I suspect he’s dressing his own death wish up in an economic argument.

  • Toby

    Idiots who crash without helmets cost taxpayers $.

    But those idiots will not live to collect entitlements in their old age, saving taxpayers $$.

    However, those dead idiots will no longer be paying taxes on income and purchases, costing taxpayers $$$$.

    The fact is, in the long run, the overwhelming majority of citizens pay in far more tax money than they ever collect in entitlements and benefits. Therefore a dead idiot is a drain on the taxpayer both in the short-term (healthcare costs) and in the long-term (lost tax revenue), regardless of the fact that they won’t collect benefits, which amount to a small percentage of their total lifetime taxes paid.

    • isambard

      while your reasoning is generally sound, my suspicion is that idiots who crash without helmets may be less likely to pay taxes and more likely to collect benefits than the average citizen. It’s just a hunch, but the guys I see buzzing the freeway helmetless here in Chicago don’t seem like they’re contributing much to society…

      • Toby

        Actual data would suggest otherwise. The average income of a Harley customer is $78,000, which means they are likely paying a fair chunk in taxes. Not to mention sales tax on the bike and all that leather. Of course, not all Harley riders go helmetless, but we’ve all seen plenty of lidless pirates. Source:

        • stickfigure

          Also, let’s not forget that the pricing and culture of H-D weights towards older folks that have already put their earning years in. From the perspective of social cost, head injuries are pretty much all win.

        • Wes Siler

          That’s customers of new Harleys, which isn’t surprising given how expensive the fucking things are. Many riders exist who don’t buy a new bike every year.

        • isambard

          I guess I should have been clearer that I was thinking of corner boy squids on their stolen R1s, and not the average law-abiding, tax-paying pirate.

  • Paul

    A lot of good comments. I wear a helmet, but have to admit, when I’m stuck in traffic, it would be nice to take it off while I’m walking my bike along at 2 mph.

  • Brook

    Good lord. What shortsightedness. They fail to realize that a dead man doesn’t pay income tax. Keep these otherwise dead bikers alive and keep them paying income taxes.

    If the state really wanted to make some short term money, they should give out free beer and set up a few DUI checkpoints around the area.

  • brutus

    good talk.

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