What Are The Arguments Against Motorcycle Helmet Laws?


What Are The Arguments Against Motorcycle Helmet Laws


The debate around motorcycle helmet usage in the United States is not a new one. The nation has no federal law mandating the use of helmets. This has resulted in different states implementing their own laws, with varying aspects of their own rules.

Presently, just 19 states have universal helmets laws (laws requiring helmet usage for all drivers/riders with no exemptions) while 3 states have no laws regarding motorcycle helmets at all. The rest of the states do have helmet laws, but they differ depending on the age of the rider or passenger, the rider experience level in some cases, if the rider has passed a safety course in some cases, and finally the health insurance status of the rider.

Regardless of what the law says, there is a population of riders who believe helmets are of no use and some even go as far as believing helmets are actually safety impediments (due to theories about obstructed vision and/or hearing).

There are several studies that prove the effectiveness of helmets. It has been seen that states with universal helmet laws have lower percentages of fatal motorcycle crashes. Despite such strong data, many riders refuse to advocate helmet laws, for plenty of reasons. In this blog, we will be discussing all those arguments to better understand their stance.


Always Wear A Helmet

Before we start listing the arguments of the opponents, it is mandatory to address just how important wearing a helmet is. If you don’t want to suffer from irreversible head trauma or die tragically in a motorcycle crash, it is imperative that you wear a helmet at all times, when riding.

Regardless of the law of the state you reside in, a helmet should be an indispensable accessory in your motorcycle gear. You can still have fun while thinking of your safety. Helmets not just help reduce bodily damages in the event of an accident but they also help to keep flying objects out of your face (and eyes), reduce wind noise, and can cut down on sun glare. All these can obstruct your riding in different ways and can even be a cause of an accident. Yes, motorcycle helmets provide a lot of different protections!


Arguments Against Mandatory Usage Helmet Laws

Before we list the arguments, it is important that we mention that this article is simply to inform riders of the benefits of using motorcycle helmets and to provide some arguments against usage of motorcycle helmets, and not to advocate for any particular public laws or policies. We’ll list a few of the more popular positions against the use of motorcycle helmets below, provide some of our perspectives, and then let you decide which arguments have merit and which do not.


1. Motorcycle Helmets Actually Put a Rider at More Risk and Not Less

Opponents of bike helmets often claim that the mass and heaviness of the helmet make its use riskier leading to a greater danger of neck injury meaning if the rider is thrown from the motorcycle or hits a stationary object, the inertia of the helmet moving forward will in essence pull on the riders head/neck and cause more damage than prevent damage.  

There may be some accident situations where this may hold truth (example: in an accident situation where the rider’s body somehow comes to a violent/rapid stop but in essence the rider’s head somehow continues to aggressively move forward partially encouraged by the weight/inertia of the helmet). 

Our response to that is that such odd/abnormal accident situations may be possible but they are very rare and the much more common and likely accident situation will involve trauma to the riders head that would far exceed the medical damages of the less likely neck only injury situation described above.


2. Motorcycle Helmets Obstruct Your Vision

Although helmets do reduce a rider’s sight and hearing, helmets that meet federal safety regulations do not restrict one’s eyesight to an angle shorter than a human’s normal seeing range. Furthermore, safety-compliant helmets reduce wind noise, which might normally drown out the noises of oncoming cars.


3. Motorcycle Helmets Provide The Impression of Safety

Critics of bike helmet use believe that wearing a helmet gives riders a mistaken impression, making them more prone to participate in risky actions. Nevertheless, there really is no evidence to back up this assertion.  How many of you have ever heard from a motorcycle rider that was in an accident that the reason they crashed is because they thought their helmet would protect them so they rode less safe? 

The authors of this blog have never heard anything of the sort from the many riders we know who have been in motorcycle riding accidents at one time or another.


4. Motorcycle Helmets Are not Effective at Preventing Injuries

Some opponents of bike helmet use contend that the majority of life-threatening incidents are so violent that wearing helmets would not increase their chances of surviving. Although this is accurate in certain extreme circumstances, it overlooks a key element. A helmet may transform a potentially life-changing collision into one where a motorcyclist can walk away with little to moderate injuries.


5. Individual Rights are Violated By Motorcycle Helmet Legislation

Those who are against motorcycle helmet laws often say that these laws restrict individual rights. No law should dictate whether or not a rider would wear a helmet. However, most driving rules are made specifically to increase safety (e.g., speed limits, passing lanes, seat belt usage, etc.) and so making a rule to wear a motorcycle helmet is just another one of those safety minded policies.  

However, like nearly all things in life, many things that most people would agree with in most circumstances, if taken to an extreme would then become something most people would be against and the same can be said of safety laws.  So we do understand the position many riders take about personal freedoms are part of a delicate balance in free societies such as that of the United States. 

For example, helmet usage laws are established in the USA in the name of safety, and generally, most people can live with those restrictions.  However, support for safety laws would plummet even if the intention was good yet those laws went to lengths that many believe would be extreme. 

Like say a state decided that motorcycle travel was simply too dangerous in general.  That state could play the – “we’re only doing this for the safety of the public” but the majority of voters would believe that to be too extreme. So suffice it to say that we hope the democratic process plays out in the various US States and laws that maintain the proper balance between personal choice of riders and reasonable safety regulations are established.  


6. Motorcycle Helmet Laws Take Away the Fundamental Joys of Motorcycle Riding

This argument slightly overlaps with the previous one, however, many riders believe that helmet laws restrict the freedom of the riders. The very picture of a motorcycle exudes the idea of freedom; zooming away with the wind in your hair and no worries in the world- it is a feeling unlike any other. However, a helmet restricts that feeling, and several riders are against that.

But, in the pursuit of “freedom”, no rider should sacrifice their safety and the safety of others. Your face and head are the most vulnerable parts of your body that get first impacted in the event of a collision. Hence, it is better to wear a helmet and not require it to save you from an accident than to not wear a helmet and regret it.


7. Only Inexperienced Riders Should Have To Wear a Helmet

Opponents of the motorcycle helmet laws claim that only riders who are starting out should wear a helmet. Motorcyclists who gained a bit of experience no longer need to wear a helmet since they have begun to manage the machine better.

However, even the most experienced riders can have terrible days on the road. Even though you might be a cautious rider who follows all traffic rules and doesn’t speed up, you can never control the actions of other drivers on the road.


8. Helmet Laws Are An Overreach By the Government

Many riders believe that the government should have no place to decide whether the rider pleases to wear or not to wear a helmet. It is unnecessary government interference and a waste of government resources. While this might be partially true since motorcycling is, after all, an individual experience, we also have to keep in mind that the government has some degree of duty to the well being of its citizens. 

This position is essentially a libertarian view of things.  In the end, people seem to gravitate to conservative, liberal, or libertarian views on issues like this and this article really isn’t going to take a magical position that will alter people’s basic political leanings. 


9. Helmets Intimidate Would be Motorcycle Riders by Making Motorcycling Look More Dangerous

Several riders believe that helmets discourage riding by making motorcycling look more dangerous. But, the truth remains that motorcycling is, in fact, dangerous relative to other more protected forms of transportation.  And, any rider who signs up for the experience is very much aware of the fact.

Helmets are nothing more than a tool to reduce some of that danger. Motorcycles aren’t built like cars with numerous safety features to protect you. Instead, a helmet is all you got to keep yourself protected. If anything, helmets make motorcycling look safer.


Final Thoughts

Whether or not your respective state mandates wearing a motorcycle helmet, we believe you should be a responsible citizen and wear a helmet.  We believe a reasonable review of associated facts and statistics surrounding motorcycle helmet usage, severity of injuries with/without helmets in use, and considering that the significant risk reduction that comes along with something as minimally imposing as simply wearing a proper helmet, most riders would agree that wearing a motorcycle helmet is the right choice!