It’s Your Choice

_Ortiz Big Apple Motorcycle SchoolBy Diane Ortiz – President and founder of the Big Apple Motorcycle School

This month’s column was supposed to be a happy holidays, upbeat article. Instead I can’t stop thinking about how very tenuous life is. Last month a very talented, smart, much admired and dedicated former colleague died in a motorcycle crash. He was in his early seventies. The local paper reported that he “lost control of his bike for an unknown reason and was thrown from it after the vehicle left the roadway.” The crash location was a flat, 2-lane, paved road near an intersection and the weather, according to the same paper, was warm and sunny that day with no precipitation. So what happened? We’ll probably never know, but the last line of the story made me cringe. They said that he wasn’t wearing a helmet.  The state he lived, and rode and died in, does not require riders to wear a helmet.


I’m all for freedom and being able to make choices for ourselves, but why are so many riders choosing to ride without a helmet? We’ve all heard the statistics. According to government reports, in states without an all-rider helmet law almost 60% of the motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets, as opposed to only 8% in states with all-rider helmet laws.  That’s just too many people. Is it really that uncomfortable, costly or unattractive to wear a helmet that could potentially save your life? When the unexpected happens, we need adequate head protection to prevent one of the leading causes of death and disability in America – head injuries.


The Institute for Highway Safety says that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.


My former colleague moved away years ago and I didn’t even know he rode. I wish I could have talked to him about riding in Florida and how smart it is to wear a helmet to protect your head and shield you from the elements (sun, wind, bugs etc.).  Perhaps a helmet wouldn’t have saved his life, but maybe it would have.


So when you find yourself in a state that doesn’t require a helmet to ride, and your friends all put theirs aside, take a moment to think about what’s more important to you — going along with your peers, or being the one who leads the pack and puts safety first.


Having a good quality, comfortable helmet doesn’t have to break the bank. These days all sizes, colors and styles are available at reasonable cost to match any bike. Many even come with built-in drop-down sunglasses, Bluetooth, head-up displays and other high-tech features.


This holiday season, as we think of family and friends and good times, I can’t think of a better gift for a fellow rider/passenger (or yourself) than a nice, new motorcycle helmet.


Ride Safe!