Motorcycle helmet laws have been the bane of motorcyclists since states began requiring all riders to wear them. Although it is obvious to anyone that wearing helmets saves lives and minimizes the risk of serious head trauma, riders have insisted that the risk is all theirs and that no one else is at risk if they choose not to wear one.
Seat belts do prevent injuries and fatalities, but an unbelted occupant can pose a risk to others in the vehicle. Also, motorcycle riders extol the joys of the wind and the elements in your face and the freedom that comes with pure riding, which does not include wearing a helmet.
Most states currently require riders under 17 to wear helmets and then have it optional for older riders. Oregon requires all riders to wear helmets. Only three states have no helmet laws at all.
A few years ago, riders in other states lobbied legislators to eliminate helmet laws citing a study that seemed to indicate that helmet users were at an increased risk of neck trauma. Many states did eliminate their helmet requirements, but some reinstated them after that study was criticized by experts. In the past few years, new designs have eliminated any concerns about neck injuries.
Further, statistics from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) indicate that about 2000 lives were saved between 1998 and 2008, with the majority of fatalities from riders under the age of 30, not all of whom were wearing helmets. Experts estimated that about 823 additional lives could have been saved if all riders had been wearing helmets. Also, despite what riders believe, fatalities and injuries do exact a financial as well as an emotional toll on a rider’s family.
Oregon tried to pass a similar helmet law in the past but it was vetoed by the governor. The present governor is also expected to veto the current proposal should both legislative bodies adopt the measure.