Motorcyclists get a bad reputation in much of popular culture. Represented as wild and lawless, in reality, motorcyclists are often pillars of their communities. Intensely loyal, bikers will stop at a child’s lemonade stand and across the country, groups of bikers form support networks for child abuse victims, giving children “tough guys” to turn to for strength and safety. Despite the good they do for everyone else, though, bikers are notorious for overlooking their own safety, and not wearing a helmet is one of the most glaring examples of this irresponsibility.
In many states, including Virginia, motorcyclists are required to wear an appropriate helmet when riding, but that doesn’t mean everyone does, even though they can protect against serious brain injuries in the event of a crash. If motorcyclists can do so much for their communities, they can take a few simple steps to protect themselves.
Tackling Helmet Avoidance
Motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets give a variety of reasons for their decision. In one study, the most cited reasons included the weight of the helmet, neck pain, range of movement issues, and difficulty breathing. These are all legitimate complaints, but they shouldn’t stop riders from donning a helmet. Rather, motorcyclists who are uncomfortable with their helmets should go to a shop and work with a professional to find a helmet that fits correctly. A heavy, ill-fitting helmet will be uncomfortable, but there are lots of options out there.
In addition to general discomfort, there are several myths that lead motorcyclists to avoid helmet use, the most prevalent of which is that wearing a helmet can increase the risk of brain injury. This isn’t just false, but it actually contradicts the science. Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by almost 70% and significantly reduce the severity of those injuries. They also substantially reduce the risk of death. Yes, they are heavy, but that isn’t going to cause any damage to your head and neck; motorcycle helmets are heavy so that they can absorb impact as necessary.
Another myth that leads motorcyclists to eschew helmet use is that wearing a helmet makes it harder to hear. Experts give this narrative a mixed review. Yes, helmets do block out some sounds, but not the important ones. If anything, it’s more likely that a motorcycle helmet enables riders to filter out background noise like their own engine and focus on important traffic sounds that will keep them safe. Given how much noise the bike itself makes, the helmet certainly isn’t making things worse.
Just Do The Math
The simplest reason for motorcyclists to strap on a helmet – whether it’s heavy or uncomfortable or they think they don’t work – is in the numbers. Motorcyclists account for 14% of traffic fatalities, but only 3% of registered vehicles. They’re greatly overrepresented and that’s because the danger of being hit by a larger vehicle and of making bodily contact with the road without the protection of a giant metal box, also known as a car, is very real. Wearing a helmet may not put motorcyclists on equal footing with traditional passenger vehicles when it comes to safety, but it’s certainly a vast improvement when you consider the alternative.