Welcome to the official website of Jim Brown - NEW COLUMNS appear each Monday!
This site is part of Brown Publications and The Lisburn Press
You are visiting my site on: May 25, 2024

I want my Freedom of Choice on a Motorcycle!

Jim Brown Audio Player
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



One of the hottest issues in the current session of the Louisiana Legislature, meeting at the state capitol in Baton Rouge, is the repeal of a law that currently mandates the wearing of a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle.  Proponents of the repeal site “freedom of choice” concerns, saying it should be an individual decision as to whether to wear or not wear a helmet.  They say there should be no role for government to play in this decision.  And I sure agree that the issue is one of freedom of choice (But read on.)

You have really missed a thrill if you have never ridden a motorcycle on a back country road on a fall day as the leaves are changing and the breeze is blowing in your face. I’ve tasted the good vibes of such breezes on many occasions and have ridden a “bike” most of my life.  A Kawasaki off road 250cc in my early Ferriday days after college, an Italian bike at Tulane Law School to get around New Orleans, and a BMW 11500GS as I grew older.

  The GS was the best bike I ever had.  And boy, did I have visions of riding all over the world.The BMW could do it all.  I thought one day I just might circumnavigate the globe taking on all types of tough and challenging terrain. Crossing a swollen river in some remote South American jungle, or triumphantly conquering the unforgiving heat and sands of the Egyptian deserts while in route to Cairo.  Or how about even competing in the Paris-Dakar or Baja 1000, on this BMW that has been pegged as the fastest all around on road, off road bike in the world?  Oh all right.  Maybe a bit too much to take on, but you get my drift. 

There just is something special about a challenging ride on a good motorcycle.But you know what?  I always wore a helmet.  And for one simple reason.  You are an absolute idiot if you do not. And if you think otherwise, just take this test.

Find a large immovable object like a large oak tree or a brick wall.
Stand about 30 paces away from this large immovable object
Run as fast as you can towards this large immovable object
As you get close to this large immovable object place your hands to your side, put your arms to your side, and put your face up, continue running as fast as you can.
Notice how it feels when you hit this large immovable object while you were running as fast as you could.
Most people can run about 15 MPH (24 KMph)
You are still in first gear with most motorcycles. With many motorcycles you can’t get them out of first gear at this speed.
Think about how this impact would feel if you were going 4 or 5 times faster

So how did you do on the test?  See where I am coming from?

But what about the “freedom of choice” argument?  Isn’t that a personal decision where government should have no say so?  Why should any government entity tell an individual what to wear when no one else is involved?  But that’s the catch.  There is someone else involved! And it’s you and me and our right to “freedom of choice.” You see, a large number of motorcyclists have minimum required insurance or no insurance at all.  Louisiana only requires at $10,000 dollar policy, the lowest amount in the country.  Most states required a minimum of $25,000. 

So here is what happens. A motorcyclist gets into a serious wreck, doesn’t have on a helmet, receives major head injuries, and the cost of medical care is astronomical. Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Riders who don’t wear helmets and who experience a crash are 40 percent more likely to sustain a fatal head injury.   If there is a minimum insurance policy involved, the $10,000 barely covers the ambulance and initial basic care cost of getting to the hospital. If there is a brain injury, and there often is when no helmet is worn, the costs could run up to a $1 million or more.  Many such injuries require medical care for the rest of the patient’s live.

The injured rider must then turn to Medicaid or the charity hospital system for continuing care that often lasts for years.  And guess who pays?  That’s right.  You and me as taxpayers.  We have to pay the bill for the irresponsible rider who suffers the injuries, then passes the cost on to us.  So isn’t our “freedom of choice,” not to be burdened with someone else’s irresponsible behavior, being infringed upon?

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who does not ride motorcycles, has come out in favor of repealing the present law.  Upon taking office, Jindal terminated Col. Jim Champagne, the aggressive Director of the La. Highway Safety Commission.  One of their differences was Champagne’s insistence to oppose any loosening of the motorcycle safety laws, particularly the requirement to wear a helmet.

One option might be considered to protect the taxpayer’s “freedom of choice.”Â  If a motorcyclist wants to ride bareheaded, raise the insurance requirements on this “free spirit” to $500,000.  For those who wear helmets, leave the requirement as is. That way, there would be funds available to pay for the massive medical costs involved when a rider receives a head injury.

So yes, keep your right to choose.  But allow me the same freedom not to be saddled with the cost of your mistake.  Either pay up with high insurance limits, or use some common sense and wear a helmet.  Either way, I want my freedom of choice too.


What do you call a cyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet?  An organ donor.”Â  ~David Perry

Peace and Justice.

  Jim Brown 

You can read all Jim’s columns going back to 2002 by going to his website at www.jimbrownla.com.

15 Responses
  1. William Lord

    Repeal the Law, The Goverment has no business telling us what protection we need to ride. As far as the cost of injuries, so what we pay for everyone on welfare, a few injured motorcycle rider won’t make much difference in the total cost.

  2. Gordon Pasha


    There are more brain injuries in automobiles than in motorcycles. Why not require helmets in cars? Car drivers should also run your “tree” test. After all, most of them drive more than 15mph.

    (Disclaimer: I ride and wear a helmet)

  3. Jim

    It has been proven in study upon study that helmets are AS dangerous as they are beneficial. The obstructed view and hearing, not to mention the additional inertia of the helmet in the wind and in a crash causes more neck injuries not allowing a rider to tuck his head. You say you are an “experienced” rider but are you and experienced crasher? Face the facts, liberals want to tell everyone how to live every aspect of their lives and become dependent upon govt to tell them how many sheets to use and to wipe from the front to back!

  4. Jim


  5. Gene

    Gordon’s statement is absolutely incorrect. That is simply not true. While I am in favor of personal freedoms, motorcycle travel is very dangerous and people should wear helmets.

  6. Joe Reynolds

    Its a good law and leave it that way. If you want to ride without a helmet,go ahead. You can pay the fine and we put it in a HSA (Health Savings Account) for you when you get hurt.
    The law is designed just like the seat belt law, to protect the human being.

  7. jon banquer

    Only thing I see which is incorrect is that most accidents are caused by an automobile which has hit the motorcycle. In California the helmet law was forced thru by auto insurers who wanted to get away from paying for brain-injured motorcyclists.

    Not sure that makes a difference in the end but in essence, the motorcyclists have to pay the penalty for a car driver’s mistake.

  8. Kurt Keys

    There’s one flaw in your logic:
    If most motorcycle riders who don’t wear a helmet died of head injuries, then why would you spend $1 million treating a dead guy?
    It seems to me when using your argument, that the helmet will protect a rider just long enough to be seriously injured and require extremely expensive medical attention, possibly, for the rest of my life.
    In this instance it is the helmet wearer that requires extra insurance to finance their surviving the accident.
    It is helmet wearers who become organ doaners.

  9. Maybe I did not make it clear. Many riders, with and without helmets, are seriously injured yearly. Many who don’t wear helmets don’t die, but are so seriously injured that their medical costs are enormous, way beyond what little, if any, insurance they have. In these cases, you and I have to pay for their medical costs. Study after study has shown that helmets reduce serious head injuries. I don’t care whether you do or don’t wear a helmet. I just don’t want to pay your medical costs.

  10. jon banquer

    Something you are totally missing is that the claim that motorcyclists become a public burden is mostly false. This law benefits the auto insurance companies since 99 times out of 100 it is a car which hits the motorcycle that causes the injury. It was the auto insurance companies that pushed this law first in California.

    It’s probably good to keep people from becoming brain-dead but let’s not use the “public has to support” argument. If that were the sole reason, just let them die. That’s what used to happen anyway.

  11. Tom McLaughlin

    Primary concern is to get and keep Government out of the affairs of the free citizen. No medical or financial logic by politicians can justify any such laws. Up to now, America’s citizens were supposed to be free.

  12. Sally Harris

    Jim, I wanted to say how much I like the recent additions to your jukebox. I hope that’s not too controversial a topic for this forum.

Leave a Reply