Could changing DOT labels prevent novelty helmet use?

Dailies -



Bad news lovers of head protection in name only. New rules being put in place by the federal government are intended to stamp out use of non-DOT-approved, “For Novelty Use Only” helmets on American roads. The change is coming in response to an 11 percent increase in the use of novelty over DOT helmets and is intended to make it harder for wearers and sellers to mislabel their make-believe products as real. But, even while the federal government is attempting to save the lives of nincompoops, state governments are looking to make it easier for them to kill themselves.

There’s a bunch of interesting numbers that prompted this reappraisal of the DOT standard. First, motorcycle rider fatalities increased every year between 1998 and 2008 at a time when total road deaths remained relatively constant. In 2008, motorcycle deaths accounted for 14 percent of all road fatalities. That’s of particular concern since motorcycles represent less than 3 percent of all registered vehicles and only make up for 0.4 percent of total vehicle miles travelled on American roads per year. During that 10 year period, the age group with the largest increase in fatalities wasn’t you damn kids, it was grey hairs aged 40 and older. The fogeys accounted for half of all motorcycle fatalities during that period. In 2010, 54 percent of motorcyclists wore DOT-approved helmets, 14 percent wore novelty helmets and 32 percent felt their bald spots blow in the wind. Worryingly, those numbers look terrible in comparison to 2009, in which 67 percent of riders wore DOT-approved helmets, 9 percent pretended to and 24 percent got their scalps sunburned.

For some background, Federal Motor Vehicle Standard No 218 is a very basic set of safety standards to which all motorcycle helmets sold for road use in America must comply. If they pass, they get the ubiquitous “DOT” sticker you see on the back of virtually every helmet sold. DOT is exceptionally basic, dictating only basic protection against impact and penetration and regulating some simple form of helmet retention. That’s why voluntary standards like Snell M2010 and ECE 2205 are used by makers of fancier helmets, who want to regulate a higher, much more sensible level of safety.

But, even that incredibly low level of imposed risk reduction is too much for some motorcyclists who live in helmet law states, but don’t want the man interferin’ with their right to die in any motorcycle crash above about 20mph or so. That’s led to a cottage industry of companies selling “helmets” that are helmets only in the sense that they cover some part of your head. To get around the legal requirements, Biltwells, Loser Machiens and all sorts of ridiculously camp cruiser lids are sold with “For Novelty Use Only” labels. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Cops can allegedly pull you over and ticket you for not wearing a DOT-compliant helmet, so some rider go so far as to stick the DOT labels on there themselves. We’d never suggest that helmet retailers also did this.

So, the federal government wants to make sure that where it has the authority to force you to wear a helmet, that the helmet you’re forced to wear is a real one. To do that, they’re making the label more complicated and more specific, making it both harder to copy and harder to argue innocence if you swapped a DOT label to a non-DOT helmet.

Beginning in 2013, that mandated sticker will have to read “DOT FMVSS No. 218 Certified” and list the helmet’s maker and numerical size.

Big whoop, right? That’s what makers of real helmets tell us. “For us it really makes no difference at all,” says a designer at once company. “Make a new sticker. Stick it on the helmet.”

Even while Washington is trying to reduce motorcyclist fatalities, legislators from the party that didn’t kill Osama in in Oregon, Nevada and other states are seeking to appeal to their poor, white, ignorant voting base by repealing those states’ helmet laws. In fact, only 20 states currently regulate the mandatory use of a helmet for riders over 21. With 32 percent of American motorcyclists already going helmet-free and 14 percent knowingly thwarting mandatory helmet laws by modifying unsafe helmets to appear legal, will swapping some stickers around really have a meaningful impact on the ever-increasing number of motorcyclist fatalities?

Federal Register

Thanks for the tip, Justin.

  • Joe

    Has anyone separated the helmet fatalities between DOT helmets and Snell?

    • Wes Siler

      I don’t think they’re recorded in that manner. Simply helmet or no helmet.

  • Kirill

    I wonder what the percentage of motorcyclist deaths are of riders that don’t wear a helmet.

  • Rayna

    Percentages are evil little tools that can be manipulated seven ways from Sunday. I think helmet laws are on par with seatbelt laws – and as long as the folks who don’t wish to wear them are okay with not having their insurance cover them I am okay with them thinning out the gene pool.

    • Myles

      I’m not, there’s always a societal cost for untimely death that’s difficult to measure. It also sucks to have one less rider, when there aren’t enough of us to being with.

      Plus the morality of it all, the bell tolls for you too motherfucker.

      • stickfigure

        Let’s NOT bring up “societal cost” because odds are that a baby boomer offing himself just before his Social Security checks start coming is a net “benefit” to society.

        So if you’re going to wave that sword around, be careful who it cuts. Personally, I’m ok with risk/reward being a personal decision.

        • jp182

          I never thought of it that way but since half of the deaths are for riders over the age of 40…….


    So here’s something nobody talks about when it comes to helmetless head injuries: you’re probably not going to die. We in medicine are just THAT GOOD. Thinning the gene poole like Rayna says is easy and cheap, but the more common scenario is a traumatic brain injury that will leave you drooling in diapers for the rest of your life, unable to work, unable to remember how to zip up your pants, and unable to maintain a meaningful relationship with anyone. Ever again (don’t worry, there’s plenty of Medicaid to go around). Medical care for the first year of a severe traumatic brain injury averages $4 million dollars PER PERSON. For patients who DO have insurance, it eventually runs out, then you and me pay. Forever. It’s why the gear laws are so strict in Europe: they have government sponsored healthcare. Why shouldn’t they (or we) minimize risk by making riding as safe as possible? Everyone should have the right to die doing something they love, but we’ve gotten so good at patching you back together that you’ll die a month later of an infected bed sore in a nursing home somewhere, or maybe you’ll just stay alive long enough for your mother to have to decide to turn off life support. Or go back to changing your diapers.

    • Thom

      Good Points all ! Cold Blooded but Accurate .

      • Stacey

        Cold blooded? Hell, no. Pragmatic and TRUE.

    • Jason

      Unless it’s an intracranial hemmorhage. SOL then.

    • Ryan

      The problem here is European-style entitlements like Medicaid, not a lack of laws making sure everyone’s liberties are infringed enough to reduce their load on the welfare state.

      I wear a helmet, and a seat belt, but god damn if it’s our employees’ right to make us.

      You’re not free if you don’t have a right to hurt yourself. Didn’t this used to be a free country?

      Isn’t motorcycling a little bit about freedom too?

    • Liquidogged

      Slow clap. Yes. Perfectly stated.

      • HEATHER

        If you have the right to hurt yourself, why should I have to pay for it?

    • tropical ice cube

      +1 – but it’s cheating, as I live in Europe now. Numbers, figures and other percentages are also being thrown all over the place in France right now, with here still 50% of death are out of this 2% population. [No word on how many of these deaths are self-inflicted vs result of an actual accident]. They are here talking about Hi-Viz yellow vests… And fatter licenseplate so they can better track/spot/punish! Less stupid to me is the idea of mandatory training if you stopped riding for 5 years.
      If you read French it’s here

    • runrun

      H, the laws you applaud don’t “minimize risk”, they are just an attempt to reduce the costs to the insurance pool that we all are forced to contribute to, via the barrel of a gun.

      IMO, the problem is the collective “us” being forced to pay for the vegetative state of “them”, not your or my freedoms to take risks. Do whatever the fuck you want as long as bad outcomes are going to cost only you. As long as you don’t cross the yellow line and make a nice pretzel with the vehicle coming the other way, carry on — just don’t expect me to pay for the consequences.

      • HEATHER

        My point exactly, RR! But safety gear DOES minimize risk of injury. That’s a (um) no-brainer.

        • runrun

          H, I don’t mean to go round and around about this, I’m just trying to clarify what I meant to say. What I meant was that helmet laws are a solution to a problem we shouldn’t have in the first place, i.e. me having to pay for the consequences of someone else’s voluntary risky behavior. No question that helmets reduce risk, and for me they’re a no-brainer.

          • HammSammich

            So, just to request further clarification, runrun, can you provide a better description of your ideal society where the society bears no responsibility to pay for “the consequences of someone else’s voluntary risky behavior?” I assume, based on your comments, that we at least wouldn’t have mandatory helmet laws. What would happen if someone was horribly injured in a motorcycle accident as a consequence of riding without a helmet and couldn’t afford to pay for their own care? Should they be euthanized? Moreover, what constitutes “Voluntary Risky Behavior,” beyond riding without a helmet? How about just riding a motorcycle in general? Driving a car? Crossing the street? Eating fast food for lunch? I’m not trying to be snarky. You and I clearly have very different viewpoints, and I’m honestly trying to understand yours better, because right now it is incomprehensible to me.

            • Ryan

              I can’t reply for runrun, but I think we may share the appreciation for personal responsibility.

              can you provide a better description of your ideal society where the society bears no responsibility to pay for “the consequences of someone else’s voluntary risky behavior?”

              There is no “society” to bear the costs, only you and me. If you want to bear those costs, great. But to force me to bear financial responsibility for someone else’s actions requires you to take money from me at point of gun (that’s what taxes are). That is highly immoral. There is no cause worthy enough to cancel out the immorality of taking money from others at point of gun. Worse, my freedom to chose what I put in my body, or if I’ll wear a helmet on my head, are now up for debate by the masses being stolen from. It’s bad all around.

              • HammSammich

                Thank you for attempting to provide some insight, Ryan, although this doesn’t really provide any clarity. I’m trying to understand what this world runrun and apparently you envision would look like. I’m not trying to have an argument about how individuals who benefit from a society by living therein have a certain amount of financial responsibility for the rest of the society. Rather, I’m trying to imagine what the country would be like if no such responsibility existed. You can make claims about the immorality of taxation by a representative government, but that’s only telling my what you see is wrong with the current system, not what you think an ideal society would look like.

                • Ryan

                  To distill it down, there’s a trade-off between freedom and orderliness.

                  If by ‘ideal society’ you mean the end of the spectrum where everyone’s needs are met and we live in a very orderly/ordered fashion, then a very centrally-planned, totalitarian government is required (this is the direction we’re moving towards, and they never work out).

                  The opposite end of the spectrum is liberty (we’ll still always have and require malum in se laws, just not malum prohibitum laws). The problem with freedom is that it can be messy. People will consume things you don’t approve of, say things you don’t approve of, you may be offended. The markets will work better (back when we had capitalism it led to unprecedented human prosperity), but socially, freedom can be messy.

                  People may injure themselves wearing insufficient helmets, but freedom means letting them do it, that it’s their choice. Enforcing that they wear a sufficient helmet may help us sleep better and give some bureaucrats some of that enforcement power they crave, but it’s not freedom.

                • Steven

                  HAVE YOU HEARD OF RON PAUL?!?!??!??!?!?!??!?!


                • runrun

                  hammsammich, ryan’s explanation to your first question was better than mine would have been. one thing i want to clarify: in the society that i’d prefer to live in, it’s not that “no such responsibility exist[s]“. we have a responsibility to take care of and help others, but it would be entirely voluntary. we’re all still free to be douches if we want to be, with the consequences that go along. i think this can work because most of us aren’t douches all the time, whether for moral reasons or simple survival.

                  this society wouldn’t depend on us all being angels to work. think about the businessman who wants to stay in business for the long term or the employee who wants to stay employed. they each have to give their customers/employer a fair deal if they are going to survive. self-interest is really all it takes. i don’t think that it’s just out of the goodness of their hearts that the guys at ryca came up with a great kit bike, right? going farther, the gas tank that they modded for me is leakproof partly because they’re just decent people, partly because fireballs would be bad for business.

                  do you stop to help fellow bikers (i feel pretty safe assuming that you’re not a not a pirate-type, who rarely stop) for only altruistic reasons? when i do, it’s partly because there’s a little voice that tells me that if i help this time, it improves the odds of someone helping me when it’s me broken down.

                  good to have this exchange with you, though i’ve forgotten what this has to do with riding :-)

  • aristurtle

    I live in a helmet-required state. The police make essentially no attempt to pull over people wearing novelty helmets, even ones where the user didn’t bother to stick a fake sticker on. Can’t really blame them, either.

    I mean, really, it’s easy to tell the difference, sticker or no, when the rider is stopped or sitting at a bar or whatever, but when the bike is moving? Forget about it.

    I still can’t understand people who wear novelty helmets. I mean, people who go without one entirely, whatever, I get it, just check that “organ donor” box and you’re fine by me. But if you’re already going through the effort of carrying around and putting on a helmet so the cops don’t pull you over, why not at least get a DOT half-helmet or something? I mean, you still won’t have a jaw after a serious crash but it’s got to be better than a plastic soup bowl with a chin strap, and it’s the same amount of effort.

    • Gene

      You should see what happens here in Florida: they buy an expensive Arai or Shoei, then hang it off their passenger grab rail while riding! WTF? Why’d you buy the damn thing then? Why drag it around if you’re not going to wear it?

    • a hipster

      can’t understand? if you live in a state where wearing a helmet is mandatory, a non-DOT helmet fits better, is more comfortable, and looks nicer than their DOT counterparts.

      i can see why many people are against it or think we’re stupid for doing it, but you can’t say we dont have a reason (even if you think it a stupid one).

      • aristurtle

        Except the plastic salad bowl helmets are generally not molded against a model of a human head, so they don’t fit better, they have less padding, so they’re less comfortable, and you look like a moron when you wear one.

        • Ben Incarnate

          You look like a moron to someone who only wears a helmet because they have to or doesn’t wear one at all. Just like you probably don’t care about their opinion, they don’t care much for yours.

        • a hipster

          no way. my biltwell 3/4 fits and looks 1000x better than my friend’s DOT certified Bell 3/4. his sits on top of his head and looks egg-headed and catches the wind funny, while mine fits snug and the padding molds to the shape of my dome.

          again, im not saying it is smart or safe. only that it is for more enjoyable to ride with.

          • Sean Smith

            A Ruby is ECE 22.05 approved, beats the crap out of an $80 biltwell in every possible way, and will do a better job of impressing ladies.

            I’d bet a round of beers that the only reasons you’re rocking the cheesy pirate lid are cost (a Ruby starts at $750 at the ultra-hip Glory boutique) and ignorance of what is available. It’s probably not a bad idea to throw on a modern full face helmet sometime and see how enjoyable it is to ride without the wind and sun turning your skin into a painful leather-like substance.

            • a hipster

              i commute 5 days a week and do all of my “athletic” riding with a full face DOT/Snell certified helmet. i’m well aware of some of the benefits.

              and sure, cost is a factor. i have no problem admitting i’d rather spend $80 on a biltwell than $750 on a ruby. ive never worn a ruby, but after wearing enough friend’s DOT 3/4 helmets and hating every one of them, i’m not so sure i’d love the fit of a ruby.

              so, help clear up my ignorance, what else is available that i am just too stupid to know about? something i will like wearing and that is reasonably priced.

  • Thom

    For anyone that insists on Not Wearing a proper Helmet when riding .

    Please do as several of my MD friends would ask you to do and sign the Organ Donor Card on your drivers license for the sake of those you leave behind .

    Chillingly those MD friends ( one of which is an ER MD another a Head Trauma specialist ) call those who Do Not wear proper M/C Helmets ;


    Think about it !

    • Deep6Dive

      That is an awesome name for them!

  • Gene

    I see they add the manufacturer’s trademark to the label, so the manufacturer has to take the action of suing in civil court, instead of simply making it an offense to make/sell counterfeit labels.

    It’s also interesting where they mention visiting to see how fakes are done. That’s some *ahem* heads-up lawmaking!

  • Kentaro rides a NRS and a GSA

    Seriously? What’s up with that “party that didn’t kill Osama” comment. First of all the current administration should not get credit for what our excellent military did. Second of all I could throw in a cheap shot in any article or comment about how the “administration that killed Osama” considered taxing vehicles by mileage driven. Or how Obama wants to tax the hell out of me to make up for his spending since he’s been in office, which means less money I can spend on gas and bikes. I enjoy and pay for this blog because there isn’t any political bullshit like on Jalopnik or most other sites.

    As far as the point you were going after with that sentence, I think it is normal for some states and citizens to think that a government forcing you to be safer is a government that is overreaching it’s boundaries. Maybe that’s why the states are given the power to decide, like it was intended when this nation was founded.

    I am ATGATT, but if some squid wants to go ride without any gear or helmet I don’t care as long as he has insurance. How would the nation react if everyone was required to wear helmets or leathers in their cars? There would absolutely be less fatalities. When does the government stop?

    • Myles

      Last year roughly 50% of American adults paid federal income tax. I don’t want to get into a politics on bike websites either, but you did bring up the whole “taxed to death” schtick. It doesn’t really fit when, again, only half of the fucking country actually pays federal income tax.

      Also, before you get into the whole “well I PAY A SHITLOAD OF TAXES” thing – I don’t care. I’m young, single, rent an apartment, and make a decent salary. I get “taxed to death” with the best of them. If you have kids, pay a mortgage, or do any of those other sneaky government backdoor deals you’re part of the problem. The tax rate isn’t the problem, it’s all the “write-offs” and “credits” that have lead to our unfortunate budget situation. That, along with the whole super expensive war thing.

      • newt

        You ain’t carrying much water here either, and you pretty much proved it yourself. in 2008, 49% didn’t pay taxes. Up 11% from the last year. But we should somehow tax those people more? Great!

        I’m married, have mortgages, make a lot of money. Oh yeah, I’ve also been directly responsible for creating over a 100 jobs for software engineers in the last 7 years. But you should tax me more so that I’ll stop starting successful companies, stop taking the insane risks that noone else wants to take. Oh wait, that’s why so many people are leaving California and New York to go to Texas. Which pisses me off, because I hate Texas.

        You want a sustainable tax base, those 100 people are worth a lot more to the state and fed than more taxes on me. But hey, demonizing people who make money is great politics, and even kinda fun these days.

        p.s. Wes: sorry for the off topic rant.

        • Myles

          I don’t understand where you’re going here. Do you think the people who don’t pay ANY federal income tax should pay less? Should the Government hand more money directly to people just for living in the states?

          I’m not saying that you need to be taxed more, I’m saying some of your 100 employees need to be taxed more. The rally-cry for the past few years (seems like forever, really) is that the “middle-class” is being taxed to death. This doesn’t make any sense at all if only 1/2 the people pay any taxes at all. I just don’t get it.

          • R.Sallee

            Myles, you are assuming the 49% that didn’t pay taxes are rich folks with write-offs. Rich folks do not account for 49% of America. The half of the country not paying taxes are charity cases, and they get to vote for more charity.

            • Myles

              I’m definitely NOT assuming that the 49% are rich folks with write offs. Many of the 49% are lower middle class with a mortgage and a few kids. I’m smart enough to wait and build wealth before starting a family, and am sick of subsidizing the irresponsible.

              They have been voting for more charity in both damn parties (Bush increased the child tax credit – one of the biggest increases in “Government Charity” ever).

              • Ryan

                Agreed, both parties feel entitled to bribe the ever-growing dependent class with money stolen at point of gun from the ever-shrinking productive sector. There’s little difference between the R’s and D’s anymore (only in how much of your money to steal, and how to tell you to live).

                I think the answer is to start bucking Federal impositions at the State level. Many States are legislating the Health Care act to be illegal in their states, Virginia will be the first to go to the Supreme Court. Also, many states are starting to challenge Federal Firearm Laws (Montana, Idaho, Texas, and a few others). Texas’s House of Representatives just passed a law making TSA gropings illegal in Texas (just as they are if you or I groped someone but weren’t being paid with stolen taxpayer loot), it just has to pass the Texas Senate and get the Governor’s signature. So there’s some hope….

      • HEATHER

        well-said, Myles!

    • Archer

      “What’s up with that “party that didn’t kill Osama” comment

      Yes, that was asshatted, but oh-so-edgy.

      Seriously, this site is getting just a wee bit too precious for me. I won’t let the door hit me in the butt on the way out, either.

      • Wes Siler

        Come on guys, if you can’t handle a little tongue-in-cheek or wittiness on occasion, then go watch Fox News.

    • Rick

      “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States…”
      Aricle 2, Section 2, Clause 1 of the US Constitution.
      I’m pretty sure that, as Commander in Chief, the President is exactly who gets the credit for the actions of the US Military.

      Don’t give us that “personal freedom and states rights” bullshit. Any for-profit insurance company out there will find a way to not have to pay for lifetime care of someone with TBI from a motorcycle wreck, ultimately making it the tax payers responsibility. It is absolutely within the government’s power to require reasonable safety precautions be taken to avoid this.

      • HEATHER

        Thank you, Rick. And I’ve had plenty of trauma patients who’ve been denied any coverage whatsoever related to their injuries because their private insurance had a teeny, tiny rider placed on page whatever that excludes coverage for injuries incurred while riding a motorcycle.
        Survived and bankrupt. Oh, and no coverage for rehab. Nice.

    • Mark D

      Been taxed enough? Have you seen the state of American roads? Schools? Education? Military Compensation? Infrastructure? Judicial System? Disaster Preparedness? Higher Education? NASA? Basic scientific resources? Health Care? Social Justice?

      I feel like I, and probably you, are taxed enough. Its Citgo and Shell and GE that aren’t pulling their weight.

      • Ryan

        Here is a harsh economic lesson: Corporations don’t pay taxes. The consumers do. If you raise taxes on “Citgo and Shell and GE” they raise prices for their products to maintain profitability.

        • Steven

          lol that’s certainly it. this man right here made a discovery that will fundamentally change the study of economics forever! without him, we’d never suspect that prices are set by the seller’s desired profit, not by supply and demand.

          your nobel prize is in the mail.

  • John

    “Cops can allegedly pull you over and ticket you for not wearing a DOT-compliant helmet”

    Oddly enough, a coworker of mine on a FatRobert was pulled over just the other day by a Santa Rosa, CA, city motor officer for not having “DOT” on the back of his helmet. He was warned, not ticketed, but that’s the first time I ever heard of somebody getting pulled over just for the helmet label.

    • Michael

      A friend of mine got pulled over and ticketed for a non-DOT helmet in Jersey.

      • Dumptruckfoxtrot

        I was pulled over but not ticketed for an old DOT metal flake helmet that appeared to look like popular non-DOT helmet brands in Washington State. This isn’t because they can see a label, but because they pull over anyone they think is wearing a non-DOT helmet. Granted, I imagine this is just when they’re bored or have a wild hair up their ass.

  • John

    Agree with Heather…Having seen way too many heads split first hand, there’s a multitude of factors that leads one to forgo a helmet. economics, comfort, etc… At the top of the list is simply narcissism. I always quote my favorite line from the (meh!) movie the devil’s advocate “vanity is my favorite sin”–(Pacino as the devil)….At this point, there’s really no one that isn’t aware of safety standards and what is sufficient for impact protection. And I’ve traveled pretty much everywhere. Wanting to look & feel good on a bike will ALWAYS trump logic for many people unfortunately. No one admit’s it because they always have an awesome BS reason lined up (freedom, claustrophobia, ventilation, whatever) I’ve seen friends witness a horrific accident and swear how it’s a life changing moment because they’ll be more conscious from now on, only to go back to the same behavior a couple of months later. It’s only after the fact when they’re immobile that people have some grand epiphany about mortality, the meaning of life, kids, eating solid foods, and all that other crap they miss now. The new DOT standard won’t do a thing but put more bureaucratic paperwork in the middle, as long as there’s egotistical idiots with cash, there will always be an industry to serve them.

  • Ryan

    So not wearing a good helmet is bad, but driving over a 100 mph on Mulholland is ok? It seems hypocritical to promote egregiously dangerous riding in an article yesterday and then run this article chastising people who don’t wear DOT certified helmets. At least you only put yourself at risk wearing a shitty helmet.

    While I will always choose to wear a helmet (and other protective gear), the government should not be involved in mandating it. Adults should have the freedom to make decisions that don’t put others at risk, even if those decisions are stupid.

    • brutus

      are you (gasp) advocating that they promote stunts like that?? I bet wes will be here in a flash to say he doesnt advocate unsafe driving. or something about mitigating risk

    • Wes Siler

      Life is a series or risks. Do what you can to reduce the ones you can control as much as possible, then go out and have some fun.

      • Ryan

        Wes, maybe I misread your intent, but the last part of the article struck me as favoring mandatory helmet laws, or at least poking fun at politicians trying to overturn them. Then I read your interview in bikeexif, specifically this part:

        “My buddy Grant and I just got back from a two-week ride through Labrador … We were told at one point during the trip that we’d be welcome to speed down the dirt road at 100mph while drunk, helmetless and shooting at anything that moved. We didn’t of course, at least not the drunk part, but the point that we could was we were free to do what we wanted. That’s the gist of any two-wheeled experience—freedom—and we found it.”

        So, are you in favor of freedom for everyone or just those who can ride up to Labrador?

        • Wes Siler

          In the modern world, we (as a society), sadly do need some protection from ourselves. While Grant and I do occasionally take our helmets off, the lack of mandatory training, shockingly inadequate optional training available and credit card culture sees the majority of people operating bikes they can’t handle using skills and judgement they don’t have.

          Reducing the number of motorcycle fatalities will prevent the one law we’re all most afraid of: no more bikes.

          • Ryan

            Viewed over the course of modern US History, I don’t think that your “allow some regulation to avoid more (worse) regulation” argument holds water. Allowing some regulation has historically lead to more and more intrusive and prohibitive regulations.

            Anyway, that’s more political ideology than motorcycles, so I’ve obviously strayed too far off topic.

          • stickfigure

            Sorry dude, I think you just acquired the “hypocrite” badge here.

            People need protection from themselves! But not Grant and I, we’re trained professionals! …who managed to crash someone else’s bike on a wide-open dirt road in Labrador.

            I’m generally sympathetic towards your sentiments on training and licensing, but this smug self-righteousness when it comes to helmet laws is too much. You trust yourselves to make appropriate risk decisions, let other people make theirs.

            • Wes Siler

              I don’t think so. We wear DOT-approved helmets whenever we’re required to and virtually everytime else, with maybe one exception a year. We don’t wear them because we have to, but because it makes sense to.

              And yeah, there’s a lot of mouth breathers on bikes out there. Please regulate all of us so those morons don’t spoil it.

      • jonoabq
    • Myles

      Riding over 100mph is awesome and fun. Very risky, but fun.

      Sleeping with women you just met is awesome and fun. Very risky, but fun.

      Riding a motorcycle without a helmet gives some more freedom, but is fucking dumb.

      Sleeping with loose women without a rubber gives some more freedom, but is fucking dumb.

      • Wes Siler

        Excellent analysis. I’m going to print this out and keep it in my wallet for future reference.

        • pj134

          I think you need to hire him as a writer. Have his synopsis at the end of every article.

      • R.Sallee

        *Ahem* But should it be illegal to sleep with loose women without a rubber?

        • dux

          Oh yes. But it won’t stop me from doing it :D

        • HEATHER

          only if you’re going to make us pay for your goddam STD.

      • Mark D

        Hear, hear.

      • slowtire

        I always wear a Dot approved helmet when I sleep with women.

      • fasterfaster

        So the government should mandate use of condoms?

        You illustrated a point perfectly, just not the one I think you intended. There are situations when the government may want to invest in educating the public, but should not force behaviors. I’ve heard the economic arguments both for and against helmet laws, and they’re a wash. Which just leaves morality – should we let people hurt themselves. The answer is, after the age of 18, yes. They are adults and they are welcome to make their own stupid decisions as long as it doesn’t put others in danger.

        In the absence of public healthcare, I do think it’s reasonable to require proof of health insurance for anyone helmetless (and I would count non-DOT helmets as helmetless), but beyond that, if they want to risk their noggin, it’s THEIR noggin.

        • Ryan

          Agreed. Ever wonder why nobody says “It’s a free country” anymore?

  • Ducky

    In Canada, since we have public healthcare, this at least is a moot point- helmet or GTFO.

  • DoctorNine

    You can make all the laws you want, but you can’t cure stupid. Let’s make a law that all cagers who want a license to drive a car, have to ride two years on a 250cc bike first, in all weather, and be able to change a flat in the rain, with only three irons, a hand pump, and a patch kit. Now that would sort out people who deserve a license from the riff raff…

    • Michael

      safety precautions = mechanical repair ability?

      Doc, I read that 5 times and I don’t see the equivalence.

      • DoctorNine

        The way I see it, laws, no matter whether I agree with their intent or not, don’t really change peoples’ behavior substantially. From my perspective as a biker, I would like all auto motorists to have a motorcyclist’s skill set, which would hopefully make them more aware of bikes, and make the world safer for bikes. But regardless of whether or not it would be desirable, it will never happen. Similarly, regardless of how strongly I feel that cyclists should wear protective equipment, (and believe me, I do, as many times as my gear has saved me, and as many times as I’ve professionally seen the results of NOT using it) people will be stupid, and try to get around it. As I say. You can’t cure stupid. So changing the law to mandate the helmet thing, is unlikely to substantially change any of the trends. If people are determined to avoid the law, they will figure out how to do so. Laws aren’t the answer.

        • Michael

          People are determined to break all sorts of laws, and do.

          Is that seriously you’re argument?

          I think I see your point if it’s about making laws to protect people from themselves, but I think there’s a societal cost to helmetless crash victims, and the state has a legitimate interest.

          But I don’t buy the “it’s too hard to enforce in 100% of the cases, so lets not pass the law.”

          There was a huge rash of break-ins in my Harlem neighborhood earlier this year, so someone was determined to avoid the law. Does that mean dump the law about breaking in and stealing stuff?

          I also disagree that laws cannot influence behavior. I ride in a helmet state and 100% of the people I see are wearing them. How do you argue that the laws don’t influence behavior? One or two may not but not for long and I haven’t’ seen them yet, though I’ve only been riding a few years.

          If I misunderstood your point, sorry. I’ll blame the meds.

  • Michael

    As I sit here holding my freshly operated wrist, and take a difficult wheezey-breath, activating my cracked-rib pain response, and I eat my 10 pill dinner, I look over at my dirty, scratched, beat up 2 year old GMax. It looked new 13 days ago.

    Thanks, buddy. Enjoy retirement on the shelf.

    I face-planted into an embankment. Without it what was left of my face woulda been a shredded mess, and I have no doubt the little bit of neck protection the average helmet has is why I can even feel those busted ribs.

    When I first started riding a couple years ago a friend said “Ah, any crash over 20 mph your dead anyway, so why bother?”

    That friend is an idiot. I think I was going about 35-40 when I hit the embankment. Several hospital staff commented on my completely undamaged face/head while taking care of my busted body.

    I didn’t have spine protection or wrist armor. Both of those are damaged. Before I get back on the bike, I’m completing my ATG outfit, as I should have before I got on the bike this time.

    I was pro-helmet before. I thought it should be law before. Now that I’ve experienced a serious crash, I wonder if an anti-helmet argument should be considered a sign of serious, license-denying mental deficiency.

    • stickfigure

      This exact same argument can be made for just about any other risky activity – skydiving, scuba diving in caves, promiscuous sex, hell even lanesplitting*.

      People that ride helmetless accept that they might die in an accident. For them the pleasure of wind in the face and bugs in the teeth is worth it. Don’t be so arrogant as to price everyone else’s life the same as your own, because you’re granting cagers moral license to ban motorcycles entirely.

      I have, on very rare, carefully controlled occasions, ridden without a helmet. I also ride with a non-DOT helmet (an Airoh S4 – and if you think your helmet is safer than mine, spend a little time with google making yourself less ignorant before you post). In the grand scheme of lifetime risk, it’s possible – but unlikely – that this will be the cause of my death. More likely it will be a Guatemalan bus driver.

      * Yes, lanesplitting. The pro-lanesplitting argument suggests you are less likely to suffer from a rear-impact when lanesplitting, but this is at best an argument for allowing motorcycles to *stop* between cars. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of real statistics about the real risk of riding faster than traffic between moving cars, but you’d need a rich fantasy life to think that this isn’t more risky than riding flow of traffic. Still, I lanesplit and I think it should be legal everywhere. Let people manage their own risk!

  • Michael

    Yes your helmet is better than mine was. Why does that make me ignorant? WTF? I couldn’t really afford a better one at the time, so I did the best I could with what I had.

    It was WebBikeWorlds helmet of the year when it came out, for whatever that’s worth, and it did what it had to when I needed it. But yeah, you have a better helmet than I did, and I hope someday I can afford one as nice as the one you have.


    Call me arrogant and ignorant and any other name you want.

    Feel better?

    I don’t really recall addressing anything in my post directly at you, but if you want to take a shot at me and directly insult me several times, whatever. I hope it made your day a little brighter, tough guy.

    Let me finish it for you: “You ride better than me. And you can kick my ass.” How’s that?

    I wasn’t even talking about lanesplitting. But go ahead, guy, let it all out.

    BTW, please, ride helmetless a lot more.

    • Cheese302

      gmax gm68s, yes great helmet, especially for the price. Comfortable, ventilated, looks nice, the visor looks great. the only slight complaint, and i dont care too much because i love it. i wish they ysed a nicer chin strap. such a nitpick. happy to hear how well it held up for you in the crash.

    • runrun

      little sensitive? take it easy, francis.

  • Glenngineer

    “Even while Washington is trying to reduce motorcyclist fatalities, legislators from the party that didn’t kill Osama in in Oregon, Nevada and other states are seeking to appeal to their poor, white, ignorant voting base by repealing those states’ helmet laws.”

    Fuck the haters, this sentence is delightful.

    • damien


  • Chris Davis

    People act as if a helmet law is the only law on the road, as if there were no speed limits, or traffic signals, or if license plates were optional. Public roads have public laws: a lot of them. Get caught breaking one of the laws and you get a ticket. Yet I’ve never heard cries about those other laws trampling anyone’s personal freedom. What is so damned upsetting about helmet laws?

    • Mark D

      Excellent point. Do you know how many ridiculous safety standards the modern car has to adhere to? And how, that likely adds 400-500 lbs to a car (decreasing MPGs/Hooning ability)? Which WOULDN’T be necessary if soccer-mom-Jane-on-the-cell-phone learned how to f*#&ing drive (sorry for the stereotype, ladies)? What’s the big deal about a helmet? They cost $120.

    • Liquidogged

      Really well said. People pick weird battles to fight. How come helmet laws have become the poster child for this sort of thing? Where’s the “raise the speed limit to 186mph” club?

      • aristurtle

        186? Still too low; it’s good enough now but you need to future-proof this!

        670 million miles per hour: it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!

  • Liquidogged

    “So not wearing a good helmet is bad, but driving over a 100 mph on Mulholland is ok? It seems hypocritical to promote egregiously dangerous riding in an article yesterday and then run this article chastising people who don’t wear DOT certified helmets. At least you only put yourself at risk wearing a shitty helmet.”


    Wes, your tacit endorsement of reckless bullshit on public roads and your snarky endorsements of helmet regulation do not compute. It’s cool, go fast as you like on the open road, even if you endanger other riders/drivers in the process, but for chrissake wear a *decent* helmet made to a *European* standard not this crude *American* standard. Is that about the size of it? Come on buddy. Who are you fooling? Honestly now.

    Really though, I like to watch you stumble as an editor once in a while. I’m rooting for you to become an amazing modern day version of the wise, embattled newspaper editor from the old days of journalism. Moments where you are caught out like this build character. Have you started chain-smoking yet?

    • dux

      Ugh, there’s more positivity in here than a koala bear crapping rainbows in a Chuck-E-Cheese

    • Wes Siler

      So the reporting on the real world as it exists doesn’t compute?

      We don’t endorse or promote reckless riding at all. But then, I don’t consider a skilled, fully geared-up rider on a well-maintained bike, using that bike in the manner for which it was designed on a mountain road away from the general public at all reckless. In fact, I think that all of us here are breaking speed limits occasionally. How does going 85 on a 65 highway differ from going 65 around a 35mph corner where it’s safe to do so?

      There’s room for grey in your world of black and white.

      And why are you upset that I refer to DOT as a minimal legal standard? That’s what it is. ECE 2205 isn’t better because it’s European, it’s better because it was designed to be better. These are facts and have nothing to do with that weeping eagle tattoo on your right butt cheek.

      • Liquidogged

        That’s a great question about speeding there. I’d say the corner is very different because there is a chance that you’ll be surprised at what you find at the end of the corner, especially if you’re really pushing it and focused on your technique. Should you be looking through the turn and not right in front of you? Of course. But the faster you’re going, the slimmer that margin of error is going to be if something does happen.

        I’m going to go out on a limb and say anything you do that can endanger someone who didn’t sign on for it is at least slightly reckless. Whether or not it’s little old ladies or other riders who can’t/won’t/don’t ride at such a spirited pace doesn’t matter that much in the end. Is it the same as drinking a six pack and driving your SUV through a residential neighborhood doing 40 over? No. But a similar principle is at work. It’s increasing risk for other people without their consent. We hate it when car drivers do this to us, so why is it ok for us to do it to them, or to other riders? Because some of us are just THAT GOOD? You’ll have to forgive me if that level of arrogance makes me want to break things.

        Anyways back to the helmets. I’m not debating your facts on helmets or safety standards, and I’m glad you cover this stuff, because few others do with any kind of real analysis. It’s just funny that you care so much about this, yet seem to care so little about what could go wrong when people do 186mph on the LIE or whatever. There’s not really anything that’s going to make that seem less weird. Your unique definition of reckless doesn’t make the dichotomy make any more sense.

        The USA versus European thing: you’re reading me wrong. I’m not enamored of DOT or Snell, I’m just poking fun at you for being a pretty boy with long hair who likes light-weight stylish Euro things, but also loves hardcore sportbikes and public road hijinx. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s another funny dichotomy, and one that I think is pretty common. Way more common than my weeping eagle ass tattoo. That thing is UNIQUE.

  • Von Scotch

    Aw man, HFL comments are just grinding me down today. Lighten up boys. Some folks don’t even have a motorcycle.

    • Wes Siler

      Yeah, there’s a lot of jingoism and general internet group think going on this week. Let’s try to remember that we’re all intelligent, unique people please.

      • Ben Incarnate

        We’re all good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like us.

      • Ryan

        Wes, advocating for better public-awareness of helmet standards, and advocating for more widespread use of better helmets is great.

        I will take serious issue however with advocating for more goddammed laws. We have too many. You can’t take a shit without breaking laws in this country anymore (I wish I was being hyperbolic but unfortunately I’m not. If you have a toilet that holds more than 1.6gal, you’re breaking Federal law). We have too many. We are the worlds largest jailer of it’s own citizens!, ever!

        So yeah, I very much appreciate the HFL reporting, but I will get serious about advocating for more laws.

        • Chris Davis

          I can understand how you might object to laws that affect what you do in your private house, on your private property, with your private water. However, helmet laws don’t apply to private roads, just public roads. There’s an important distinction there. There’s also a distinction between wasting resources and wasting lives.

  • JasonP

    A friend that owns a shop here in Maryland is selling quite a few DOT helmets now. Police are stopping riders that are wearing skidlids and a few riders that have DOT helmets that look like the novelty types. Wonder if Ill get stopped for wearing my 70′s 3/4 helmets, when I want to look all Hipster. :)

  • Paul B

    Let’s face it folks. The easiest way to save motorcyclist lives is to simply outlaw motorcycles.

  • Joshua

    Way to many folks out there willing to force the way they want to live on others. You don’t like helmets, don’t wear them. If you do, then have at it. For those who like to impose their will on others, just remember it’s not much of a leap in this thought process to say motorcycles are inherently dangerous and no level of gear or helmets will make them safe. This cost on society is to high and we will just ban them altogether for the good of the people.

    You start down this road of letting the government mandate how you live and you already gave up your life, you just happen to still be breathing.

    • slowtire

      +1…unfortunately, this is true.

  • rndholesqpeg

    For those who like to impose their will on others, just remember it’s not much of a leap in this thought process to say motorcycles are inherently dangerous and no level of gear or helmets will make them safe.

    It is a huge leap, its massive, almost like trying to leap the grand canyon.

    • slowtire

      “You start down this road of letting the government mandate how you live and you already gave up your life, you just happen to still be breathing.”

      Several years ago, NJ (US) had a governor (Florio) who banned under-cooked or raw eggs from being served in restuarants or in the preparation of food bcause of the chance of someone getting salmonella. AKA “the great runny egg ban.”

      If you don’t think it’s possible for the government to ban motorcycles for safety reasons to benefit the common societal good, you’re kidding yourself. I doubt it would happen, but I don’t doubt some legislators might try.

      • Chris Davis

        And if you take it to the extreme in the other direction you have anarchy. Slippery slope arguments are for simple, black and white worlds: fortunately ours is complex and gray. We have the ability as humans to draw distinctions and while it may get blurry here and there, we can still be reasonable without pandering to totalitarian or anarchistic fears. We’re talking about whether or not the public has a right to create laws governing the public on public roads.

    • rndholesqpeg

      If you don’t think it’s possible for the government to ban motorcycles for safety reasons to benefit the common societal good, you’re kidding yourself. I doubt it would happen, but I don’t doubt some legislators might try.

      While there are plenty of places we can point to of the government overstepping its bounds on personal freedom (pasteurized cheese, is my biggest gripe these days), that wasn’t the point of my argument.

      My point is that saying the need to wear a piece of safety equipment while transporting yourself on public roads is not in the same logical realm as ‘an Iconic, environmentally friendly,etc form of transportation the motorcycle should be banned from public roads’. The argument would have meant, “if you allow them to pass seat belt law, then they will also be able to take your car away”.

      To my knowledge there is no state that has a helmet law that has tried to ban motorcycles.

  • Brook

    I find it interesting that many of the “rights and freedoms” crowd are anti-gay marriage and pro lifers.

    • runrun

      interesting how? you’ve not really said anything yet.

    • Mark D

      Holy shit Nigeria has helmet laws and New Hampshire doesn’t? Lulz.