Below is another essay we received in our scholarship competition, which we considered well written, from Kassandra Leal who will be attending the University of Rio Grande Valley in the fall.
Destin Ray* was a 28 year old, hardworking father of two loving boys and a great motorcycle enthusiast. His love for motorcycles came about early on in age while watching his father enjoy his cruiser every day, his long hair blowing in the wind. Little did Destin know that one day that freedom, the same one his dad enjoyed while driving his motorcycle without his helmet, would cost Destin his life and the suffering of his family.
One early morning, Destin woke up just like he did every morning and got on his bike and headed to work. As he passed a neighbors’ driveway, the neighbor was backing out, unaware Destin was passing by and backed up, t-boning Destin, sending him flying so many feet in front of the car headfirst into the pavement. Sadly, Destin succumbed to his head injuries, which his doctors said he would’ve had a chance to survive had he worn his helmet. Destin’s sisters soon created a Facebook page commemorating his passing, but also as a warning to others who chose not to wear a helmet, and as a plea to do so in order to remain safe and stay alive, as their brother would’ve had he simply strapped on his helmet that morning.
Fortunately, Texas motorcycle laws regarding the use of helmets according to virtualdriveoftexas.com states, “all riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet.” That’s great if you’re a passenger and under the age of 21. You are highly likely to survive an accident. But you may be wondering, “what about drivers?” According to dmv.org/tx-texas/safety-laws.php, “riders over the age of 21 who have completed a rider training course or who possess medical insurance coverage that covers motorcycle accidents are not required to use a helmet.” The rules seem pretty lenient, seeing as to you must complete a training course prior to being able to obtain your motorcycle license here in Texas. But what about in other states?
When researching Pennsylvania motorcycle helmet laws, they seem to be a bit more harsh. According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation Fact Sheet of 2008, any driver over the age of 21 must wear a helmet and protective eye gear unless the driver has two years of motorcycle driving experience and/or has taken a motorcycle safety training course. If you do not meet those requirements, you are required by law to wear a helmet that has met the standards set by the United States Department of Transportation. A way to know if the helmet meets those standards is by checking to see if the helmet you are thinking about purchasing comes brandished with the U.S. D.O.T sticker. If it does, then you are set to enjoy your motorcycle complete with your helmet.
There are some people who argue about the pros and cons of wearing a helmet while riding and if you do not know what they are, here is a quick list: the pros being safety and the ability to listen to music, while the cons being weight of the helmet and the loss of freedom. Let’s go a little bit further into detail and talk about these points, most of which were provided by my father, who also happens to drive a motorcycle.
Pro number one: safety. According to www.nhtsa.gov, each year more than 2,200 people are killed and more than 55,000 are injured during motorcycle accidents. If the individuals had been wearing helmets, many of the deaths and disabling injuries would not have happened. Just because you wear a helmet does not necessarily mean that you will be absolutely safe and not have any crashes, but they will clearly help cut down on deaths and injuries when collisions occur. No other aspect of a motorcycle safety program is more effective than state helmet laws. A couple more factoids provided by nhtsa.gov are more than 80% of all motorcycle crashes result in death or injury. Per mile driven, a motorcycle is 16 times more likely to crash than an automobile. Wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces that risk by almost one third (29%). Head injury is a leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Riders who don’t wear helmets and who experience a crash are 40% more likely to sustain a fatal head injury. So wearing a helmet has been proven time and time again to be the thin line between life and death.
Pro number two: you may be able to purchase a helmet that allows you to listen to music while using Bluetooth. A lot of older riders are unaware of the fact that you can purchase a helmet that allows for the synching of Bluetooth through your phone to listen to your favorite music or with a touch of a button, you are able to speak while a call is coming through without ever picking up your phone. Yes, hands free. While I don’t condone using a phone while driving, the fact that there is an option there for you is pretty innovative.
Here are the cons:
Con number one: The weight of the helmet can lead to the breaking of your neck during an accident. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Motorcycle Helmet Law Fact Sheet, this is a frequently asked question. The Penn D.O.T. answered by stating, “No. Studies indicate that the use of a motorcycle helmet provides a significant reduction in head and neck injuries.
Con number two: Loss of freedom. A lot of people buy motorcycles to enjoy 360 degrees of “total freedom” and wearing a helmet to some hinders the “wind blowing through your hair” sort of freedom that they crave. But a helmet with protective eye/face gear allows you to enjoy that freedom with the added protection that in case you are in an accident, your neck, face, brain and skull are protected. The cost of a losing a little bit of freedom (i.e. in the form of not wearing a helmet) allows you to gain so much, including being able to live out the rest of your life however you intend to do so.
My friend, Destin, would be celebrating his sons two year birthday soon (he was one when Destin passed away) had he worn his helmet. My hope is that his story and the pros and cons I have discussed strongly influence you to purchase a motorcycle helmet and adhere to your states motorcycle helmet laws.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.