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novelty-helmetOn Saturday Andrew Barns, 26, died when a car pulled out in front of him on his motorcycle at 185th and Farmington Road shortly before 7 p.m.  According to Sheriff reports he was wearing a novelty helmet and the medical examiner will determine if the novelty helmet contributed to his fatal injuries.  No citations were issued (at this time) to the driver.

I didn’t know Mr. Barns, but would like to offer my condolences to his family and friends.  It’s a sad day for all motorcycle enthusiasts and one to reflect on our choices.

Freedom and choice vs. safety

We’ve all heard the debate or been involved in a compelling argument on both sides of the helmet laws.  There are some motorcyclists who do, but most don’t wear a novelty helmet as a symbol of resistance “against the man” i.e. protesting lesgislators that require bikers to wear certified helmets.  Full Disclosure: I rode double digit years with a novelty helmet and even paid $2 for the DOT sticker to minimize chances of getting pulled over by law enforcement.

I don’t recall the exact moment, but I decided a few years ago that if I have to wear a helmet it might as well be one that offers some degree of protection and elected to switch to a certified helmet.   Those of you who visit this blog regularly know there are a lot of freedom of choice posts and it was MY choice to purchase a DOT certified helmet.  This may not reflect your thinking and that is your choice.

This post is about reflecting on our choices.

Clearly Mr. Barns accident was the auto drivers fault and I’m not trying to pile on to his tragedy, but it’s important to note that more than 800,000 novelty helmets are sold in the U.S. every year!   That’s about the same number of motorcycles that were registered in the state of California in 2011.

In my view, the vendor/marketers of novelty helmets are like big tobacco–unapologetic, dismissing safety concerns, squelching debate and claiming they simply are accommodating consumer demand.   Most all are made in China or India and even those Carbon Fiber/Kevlar versions are outright fakes.  Sure it’s legal to make and sell novelty helmets as long as they aren’t falsely represented as meeting federal standards, but talk about a poster-child for proliferating cheap ineffective Chinese products as motorcycle crash deaths mount.

And I’m intrigued by the contradiction… Harley-Davidson motorcyclists complain about the cheap China made Harley trinkets or 3rd party chrome parts which they want no part of, but think nothing about buying a $29 “Made In China” novelty helmet believing that ‘something is better than nothing’ regarding its protection.  But, I’ve digressed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agency has estimated that as many as 754 people die each year in states with mandatory helmet laws because they were wearing novelty helmets instead of certified headgear, which amounts to nearly 1 in 6 rider fatalities.

According to this study based on head trauma vs. non-head trauma deaths, head trauma deaths account for 34% of motorcyclist deaths.  Many would agree that an approved/certified safety helmet is by far more protective and would overwhelmingly prevent serious injuries as opposed to a novelty helmet, but I would also like to see a correlation and follow-up on motorcycle licensing, training and education.

I am sure there are a fair number of riders out there who won’t appreciate this blog post.  They will see my post as advocacy for the U.S. becoming a more repressed, intolerant and regimented place.  More government intervention.  Most blogs just don’t want to touch the topic.  But, novelty helmets just don’t share the same distinguishing characteristics as certified helmets.

If we’re being intellectually honest as a group/industry, its important to spotlight helmet considerations in the ongoing debate over motorcycle safety.

The Barns tragedy compelled me to urge motorcyclists to think different–if you’re going to wear a helmet, why not consider or make it a certified one?

Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Dennis Hof Saturday morning was a total rain out. Water hose style with puddles! The casino’s were very busy with patrons waiting on weather reports. By noon the showers had cleared and we headed out on our own mini CatHouse Poker Run in Carson City. It wasn’t raining, but it looked like it wanted to and it was cold riding.

On the first stop of “Meet Famous People” tour I met Madam Suzette and Dennis Hof, owners of the Bunny Ranch and who starred in the reality TV show Cathouse: The Series on HBO. They do that “honest” living gig in the oldest profession. Watched “Air Force Amy” doing her gig with all the riders who would listen to the “give me your $$” banter. According to reports there are more than 500 women who work the ranch….all “independent contractors” who consider themselves a highly commissioned sales team!
Ranch Group
We made our way over to the tri-ranches; Sagebrush Range, Kit-Kat and Moonlite. It was just another day for these local “ho’s” I suppose…tough life in my book. There were live bands and we headed back to Reno to miss a shower ridden sky for the Harley dealership. A variety of food vendors, and race dyno’s were on hand throughout the dealer.
Chinese FoodWe ate dinner in the Eldorado Hotel at the Hong Kong style Chinese restaurant called Golden Fortune. Leo has waited on our posse for several years now, but this year he was booked. An accident or choice? We’ll never know, but he did pay us a table side visit. Excellent dinner and the service was top notch! We ate enough food to have two heart attacks, but managed to waddle down to the craps table. Mac was on a roll hitt’n the hard ways, and many sixty eights till the pit boss even started looking nervous.
Stunt
Called it in early since we scheduled a 7:30am departure out of Reno on Sunday. The forecast was clear and 40 degrees so, we all had to find our winter riding gear and try and fit things back into the tour packs.

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