by Frank "Rags" Rago
Whether you like wearing a helmet or not they are a major part of riding a motorcycle. Some take their helmets to new levels with rooster tails, custom painting and a variety of attachments. They come in the basic skull cap design and range both in design and pricing to those helmets that are heated, have Bluetooth phones, stereo speakers and intercom systems. So the choices are everything from the basic to the astronaut style.
We have states like Nebraska who were trying to pass legislation on eliminating helmet laws when at the same time the state of Delaware is trying to pass a mandatory helmet law. Oh you did not know? In Delaware you are required to have a helmet on the bike for the rider and a passenger if there is one riding. If you are over 19 years old; the helmets need not be worn. Hang them on the side.
There are 19 states including the District of Columbia that have Universal Laws. These are laws that require helmets to be worn by anyone riding a motorcycle no matter what size. We then have 3 states that have no helmet laws. While riding through Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire the wind can tickle your ears and the bugs can smack you in the face.
Then we have the Partial Helmet Law states. No, that does not mean a half helmet. It means that these 28 states allow the riders of two wheeled vehicles with 50cc or less, or a bike that has a top speed of 30mph, the option to not wear a helmet. That means the crazy college kids on those hot-rod scooters can ride free and clear. Sometimes I wondered how all this helmet law stuff got started, well here you go…
The year was 1967 and up until that point, helmets were not mandatory in many states but the federal government stepped in and said, “If you want federal money for your state roads and construction on roads, do what we say”. And that folks was it. Many states adopted helmet laws and by 1970 most all states required helmets to be worn on motorcycles.
Later in 1976, the states started to lobby congress to stop the Department of Transportation (DOT) from assessing penalties on states that held firm on no helmet laws. So that’s how we get to today’s helmet laws. Whether you are for them or against them that is your business.
Here is a little helmet hint for the state of Georgia. If you custom paint your helmet, do not cover the DOT sticker. If you do you can get a ticket.
I look back at a time when I was young and riding my first dirt bike. It was a Yamaha 80 and I thought I was all that when riding it. While living on the farm many of my friends owned bikes and many did not wear helmets. On one particular morning I was headed out and to make a long story short, Mom got my keys and would not give them to me unless I wore a helmet. Grudgingly I placed the helmet on my head and grabbed the keys and was off.
Later that day while blowing across a field, between Schwartz’s house and the Beverly Rd.; while just getting to the pavement and not seeing a curb that was covered with grass, I crashed big time. My front tire hit the curb and stopped, my body and bike went flying through the air and as one onlooker said, “You did a perfect somersault, well until you hit the pavement!” I had flown off the bike and landed on my forehead and slid about 10 feet on my head. Yes I had road rash, the bike faired a lot better than I did. It landed on two wheels and took off and ended back in the grass. After a short period of just sitting there in shock, I took my helmet off. My goggles were beyond repair and my helmet had almost worn through where I had slid on it. Moms sometimes know their stuff. I should have given my mother a bit more credit since she used to ride a street bike back in the early 60’s and had wiped out once.
So even with that knowledge, those rides up in the Saddleback Mountains or down the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California back in the 80’s, my helmet adorned the back of my seat more than my head. There is something just freeing about riding a bike without a helmet. Whenever you see me riding these days I will be wearing a helmet and at every red light, the shield gets flipped up and for a second I can forget about the big thing on my head. I believe that wearing a helmet is a choice that every rider needs to make for themselves, end of story.
Helmet laws are always changing and have probably done so since the creation of this story.