Should I wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or bike?AKA: “Do I want to die a slow, painful death?”

OK, so that headline is a bit shocking. But this article is going to be very honest, direct and a bit aggressive because I feel very passionate about this topic.

Wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle or motorcycle. Period.

So many people think that they’re being purists or fatalistic when they don’t wear helmets. They say, “When my time is up, my time is up. I’m ready.”

You know why that sentiment is so crazy? Because people who don’t wear helmets don’t die instantly when they are in accidents! In fact, a lot of them spend the rest of their lives as vegetables, or in chronic pain, or in wheelchairs, or as giant burdens on their families…or all of the above.

When you choose not to wear a helmet, you are making one of the most selfish decisions imaginable. It’s like saying, “Dear family, prepare to feed me through a tube and change my diapers for the next 40 years.”

A study of 900 motorcycle crashes showed that wearing a helmet was the single most critical factor in preventing or reducing head and neck injuries among motorcycle drivers and passengers.

Read the following information about Traumatic Brain Injury published by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. As you read it, imagine that your spouse or your parents or your children are taking care of you as you experience these symptoms or surgeries:

“Approximately half of severely head-injured patients will need surgery to remove or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue). Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the individual. Some common disabilities include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), communication (expression and understanding), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness). More serious head injuries may result in stupor, an unresponsive state, but one in which an individual can be aroused briefly by a strong stimulus, such as sharp pain; coma, a state in which an individual is totally unconscious, unresponsive, unaware, and unarousable; vegetative state, in which an individual is unconscious and unaware of his or her surroundings, but continues to have a sleep-wake cycle and periods of alertness; and a persistent vegetative state (PVS), in which an individual stays in a vegetative state for more than a month.”

Yet, TBIs caused by motorcycle accidents are largely preventable! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posts the following on their website:

  • Helmets are the best-evaluated way to reduce motorcycle deaths and injuries. They are 29-35 percent effective at preventing motorcycling deaths and substantially more effective against deaths from brain injury. They also significantly reduce nonfatal brain injury.

Now, I’d like you to list the reasons that you don’t wear a helmet. Let me guess:

  • “It’s not cool.”
  • “I look awful in it.”
  • “It interferes with my enjoyment of riding.”
  • “It blocks my hearing and vision.” (Hint: try a different helmet.)
  • “I don’t like having helmet hair when I arrive at my destination.”

And now, the final step: imagine your spouse or parents or children have completely changed their lives to accommodate you after an accident. Their once-cozy homes look like hospital wards filled with your pills and equipment. While feeding you one day, they ask you, “Why didn’t you wear a helmet?” and you respond with one of the reasons above, such as: “I looked awful in it.”

Seems like a pretty selfish decision to me.