Whilst perusing the world wide web for information about the latest motorcycle helmet law safety standards, I came across some interesting articles. 50 years after the UK government mandated the use of helmets on public roads, people are still bitching about it. Well nearly 50 years, anyway. Intrigued, I read a few of their arguments, just to see if they really were as nonsensical as you’d imagine. And they were. But they did manage to change my mind. Here’s why…
Believe it or not, I’ve got just the right amount of braincells to know that riding a motorcycle without the appropriate protection is a fairly dopey thing to do. I’ve done it before with disastrous consequences. There’s nothing like learning the hard way. But you can break your arms and legs till the cows come home, and it won’t kill you. If you break your head though, you might not get a chance to do it again.
That’s why from April 1973, you’ve got to wear a lid if you ride a bike on the road. If you don’t, and the five-0 catch you, they could fine you up to £500. Ouch. So why wouldn’t you? And what type of a person would argue that the motorcycle helmet law is a bad thing.
One argument that I’ve seen cropping up a few times is the ‘It’s my head, you can’t tell me what to do with it’ argument. This is the idea that it isn’t any of the governments business whether you wear a helmet or not, and for them to say you should is an infringement of your basic human rights. And whilst I know that sounds completely fucking stupid, maybe people should have the right to smash their face in, if they really want to.
Because if it’s a question of stopping anyone doing any unnecessary harm to themselves, there are plenty of things that harm (and kill) much more people than motorbikes do every year. Smoking, drinking and eating badly all contribute to thousands and thousands of deaths. But a cancer patient can still buy a packet of 20. An alcoholic can still buy a bottle of voddy. And a fat bastard can still buy a Mars bar. Nobody’s going to stop them. Should anyone stop them? If the government are really so keen on protecting life, maybe they should be doing more to address those things, rather than worrying about whether or not a few motorcyclist are wearing a helmet or not.
Another problem the anti-lidders have with the motorcycle helmet law is that it’s completely situational, i.e. it only applies when you’re on the road. If it’s so important to wear a helmet, why doesn’t motorcycle helmet law extend beyond the public highway. As far as the law is concerned, there is absolutely no need to wear a helmet when you’re riding a bike on private land. Even though it can be just as dangerous. They argue that a proper law, is a law wherever you are. If you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on private land or a public highway; you’re braking the law. But that doesn’t wash with me because there are loads of things that you’re allowed to do on private land, but not in public. My favourite example is masturbation. Try getting away with that on the M25.
Of course not everyone has to wear a helmet. If you’re a practicing Sikh and you wear a turban, you don’t need to. This was always going to add fuel to the fire, wasn’t it? And I’d have to admit that I don’t know how comfortable I am with the ‘one rule for them and another for the rest of us’ thing. But only because I think it sets a dangerous precedent. It’s saying religion is more important than the law of the land. If one group of people can be exempt from a particular law because of something that they believe, why can’t any other group of people be exempt from any other law because of something they believe? If you ask me, that’s a much bigger issue than someone being made to wear a helmet when they don’t want to.
The most absurd argument that some people have though, is that helmets don’t actually save lives. Some argue that wearing a helmet is even more dangerous than not. This is complete bollocks. Of course helmets save lives. In fact they’ve saved my life countless times. But the anti-lidders don’t see it like that. Plenty of them say helmets can be an uncomfortable distraction or an insect trap, which can directly lead to a crash. Others say wearing any form of protection can lull you into a false sense of security, causing you to outride your ability and crash.
Some of them conveniently ignore the fact that motorcycle fatalities were dramatically reduced when the motorcycle helmet law came in. Others blame the downturn in deaths on better tyres, better brakes, better streetlights; as if those things magically improved overnight.
No, it’s nonsense. We should all wear our helmets when we’re riding our bikes, whether that’s on the road or not. I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind about that. But as far as the legislation goes, maybe that’s a step too far. Let’s be fair, it wouldn’t make much of a difference to most of us; anyone with any sense would wear a helmet whether it was the law or not. Perhaps we should let the daft lads who don’t want to wear one crack on. When they crash and stove their heads in, it’d be their own stupid fault. And if they end up killing themselves, well let’s just call it natural selection. After all Mother Nature works in very mysterious ways.