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ATGATT: Should Motorcyclists be Forced to Wear Helmets?

Dress suit and motorcycle helmetYou get a lot of looks riding a motorcycle in a dress suit and your high top Converse chucks. I didn’t always used to ride like this though, like many riders, I went through an ATGATT phase once. All The Gear, All The Time. That was a long time ago. One day I realized it went against all of the reasons I love riding.

The Italian language has a beautiful word we don’t often hear on this side of the ocean: menefreghismo. It translates into don’t-give-a-****-ism.

When I’m riding I decompress. I don’t feel stress, pressure, or sadness. Riding is escaping from society’s conventions, its “norms”, its traditionalist ideals of white and black right and wrong. Riding is the break away from society’s definitions of what and how to think, feel, see, and be. I don’t want to live according to someone else’s fear propaganda of Murphy’s Law – that a motorcyclist will only crash when he or she isn’t wearing protective gear. I don’t care to subscribe to what major motorcycle manufacturers put out as the fashion of the sport. I’m proud to break every fashion faux-pas in the book.

Dress suit with sneakers? Check.
Full face Arai helmet on a cruiser? Check.
Possessing all of the gear from armored vest to armored knee and shin pads, yet wearing none of it? Check.

Speaking of helmets, Stu Seaton‘s latest article, To Wear, Or Not To Wear, in this month’s Motorcycle Mojo is about motorcycle helmet laws. I’ve written about Stu Seaton before. This time I thoroughly agree with his perspective. His article was about whether or not motorcycle helmets should be legally required.

Dress suit and motorcycle helmetWe live in a world where same sex marriage is becoming legal for more people in more places than ever before. At the same time, the number of people and the number of places where smoking cigarettes is allowed is decreasing. Modern science tells us that second hand smoke is a greater threat to humanity than a Bridezilla or two, and I don’t mind.

As long as same gender couples are sensible, fair, stay out of my way, and drive with caution around motorcyclists, what they do is no business of mine. However, I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate me unleashing a gassy BikerPup next to them at their next candlelit dinner, so they shouldn’t expect me to have to dine in the company of their cigarette stink. A little consideration to and from everyone keeps us all happy.

I think the basis of Stu’s article was that you should be free to live your life however you choose to as long as your choices don’t have consequences for others. He pointed out that in Canada we have a universal healthcare system, meaning that we all pay for each other’s healthcare. In the United States this isn’t the case. If Johnny America crashes, he pays for his hospital bills. If Jimmy Canada crashes, we all pay for his healthcare. If motorcycle accidents involving motorcyclists without helmets could be statistically proven to be more expensive to tax payers than maybe it stands to reason that Jimmy should have to wear a helmet in Canada. If Johnny down south is the only one paying for the consequences of his actions, why not let him make a responsible decision for himself?

There is plenty of information out there about the risks of not wearing motorcycle gear. This video shows what an accident with no gear looks like. I’m not advocating everyone throw on their wool suit and chucks and ride à la YouMotorcycle. We’re all on different motorcycles, on different roads, doing different speeds, in different places. I’m simply saying you should have the right to make an informed decision based on what makes sense for you.

What do you think? Leave a comment and enter to win a free Motorcycle Mojo Magazine subscription.

Adrian S.

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

7 comments

  1. I think the helmet laws aren’t any effective as the seatbelt laws. The main issue is driver awareness and training. If we all had rigorous training, then a lot of potential accidents would reduce…
    BTW, there are folks (the majority, IMO) running around in CARS and TRUCKS with bad brakes, bad tires, bad driver habits, bad attitude, etc…and they die in crashes with their seatbelts on or off…

  2. Wear the F–king HELMET. I do not like paying for your hospital stay. $20,000 extra medical ins doesn’t pay for 20 minutes in the ER. Or covering for the coma you could be in. I do not worry about what you will hit….I worry about what TEXING chickie hits YOU.
    If wearing a HELMET gives me a EDGE….. I want it.

    • thats your prerogative, but you dont pay for MY hospital bills sir. I do. i agree with the texting thing, but that is her responsibility, mine and yours being on a bike is to be a proactive rider, keep your head on a swivel and keep your situational awareness at the highest possible level. you are more maneuverable, quicker, and stop MUCH faster than the car or truck ever can. because of that you are more responsible for your safety than those folks.

  3. While I recognize that many riders feel it is their right to chose whether they wear a helmet or not, it is my opinion that only a fool would ride without one. It only takes one accident, regardless of who caused it, to kill or maim a motorcyclist. If I didn’t wear a helmet when I had a bad accident caused by a car driver failing to stop at a stop sign, I would not be alive to write this today. As for the argument that it’s the rider’s life and he or she can chose what they do with it, I find that a very selfish argument because the vast majority of us have families who we would hope would miss is if we died prematurely. Do motorcycle dads want to leave their children fatherless, just so they can take a chance while enjoying their “freedom”?

    I have lived in the USA and in countries with social medicine and do not buy the argument that your accident does not drive up costs for all of us. Insurance costs are not just based upon your individual risk, but rather the collective experience of many riders. Even good private insurance has limits which can easily be exceeded, so who, other than the taxpayer, pays the excess? One also needs to think about related costs following an accident such as long-term disabilty, unemployment, rehabilitation and possible long-term care. Who pays for that?

    I, for one, would never ride without a helmet, or with anyone foolish enouigh to ride without one, and everytime I see a helmetless rider, I think there goes another idiot.

    I recognize there are many who would disagree with me, but at least you know how I feel.

    There is also a major contradiction in this newsletter in that one article urges you to make sure your children always wear a helmet, yet in this article it advocates your right not to do so. It seems as if Your motorcycle talks out of both sides of its mouth.

    • Hey Dave,

      We both know helmets keep motorcyclists safe. I’m assuming we both know eating fruits and vegetables at every meal keeps motorcyclists healthy, agreed? Does that mean we should force motorcyclists to wear helmets at every ride and eat fruits and vegetables at every meal? Can you imagine someone dictating to you what you could or couldn’t eat? Would you give up your right to choose simply because you agree?

      I’m not sure what you mean by “talking out of both sides of its mouth” – isn’t it possible to believe in something but stand up for your right to choose against it?

      I believe that taking up a devoted religion or a martial art are great ways to instill self-discipline and inner reflection. Those are two things I admire, but I am not religious or a martial artist and wouldn’t want to subject anyone else to be.

      Give people the no non-sense information they her to make an informed decision and let them choose for themselves. That’s all we do. You can choose to call it whatever you want, that’s the beauty of it, the choice is yours!

      See what I did there? Ride safe! (or don’t ;)

      • Nope. You never make a decision that doesn’t affect someone. Hang the cost. If you die, what about the people you leave behind? Friends, spouse, children. I suppose they won’t feel any pain at your passing or loss of anything when your paycheck disappears. If you don’t die, how about chronic vegetative state? You, sitting in a wheelchair or bed needing feeding, cleaning and flipping. If your family is lucky some health care worker will make a salary cleaning your bottom, if not they’ll have to do it. Who did you affect then-your stupid self or your 12 year old daughter? Wear the damn helmet and express yourself with straight pipes. Plus when Johnny America, with health care insurance, gets his brains scrambled everybody’s rates are affected.

What do you think?