The news today is filled with more death and carnage.

The CMC (Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers) is calling for stiffer penalties if a motorist kills a rider.
Riders are outraged at the fatalities and accidents being caused by inattentive motorists.

The number of motorcycle deaths are like the size of our community - on the rise.

I agree that there needs to be stiffer penalties for motorists but I also feel every rider should be encouraged to take some kind of advanced rider training at some point. The more skills we have, the better our chance for survival. I'd like to see the government and insurance companies provide substantial discounts on advanced courses and insurance for those willing to take them.

My personal belief is that the more skill you have, the less likely you are to be involved in a situation that becomes life threatening.

A friend to many (including myself), Kathleen Purser who passed recently, died from head injuries - she was wearing a beanie. Last year another friend of mine, Sylvie Day died from head injuries, she too wore a beanie.

In both cases there are/were people calling for everyone to wear full face helmets and other types of DOT helmets.

But I wonder...does it really matter what helmet you wear?

I'm truly not so sure.

I feel that sometimes a DOT helmet, in particular a full face helmet can cause other injuries, the weight of these helmets can break your neck in certain kinds of accidents. You might survive the crash and still be with us but your quality of life may be somewhat jeopardized.

It's a debate that I have no real answers for. To me, it is truly the rider's choice.

My attitude is, if I am in a serious accident, I would rather be gone from this world than live in a wheelchair or worse. To live through an accident and not be able to ride would be devastating to me and my quality of life...I am not so sure my family would agree with me, but that is my personal truth.

Make no mistake, it is not something I take lightly - there are so many factors in the choice, so many emotions, so much to consider. I wear a DOT Beanie, it is my concession to my family's concerns for my safety. I wear full leathers 99.9% of the time, I have an aversion to road rash.

I take what I like to believe are SMART RISKS...

Your family, loved ones and friends would rather you wear a DOT helmet - they would like to see you take every precaution possible. Yet, if you came home to them in a wheel chair or with mental impairment they might not be able to deal with that any better than they would be able to deal with your death.

I know people who have survived the most vicious of accidents with hardly a scratch and others who died in seemingly harmless accidents. I truly believe that when God wants you home with him, he takes you regardless. Again, that is MY belief.

Stiffer penalties, rider training and helmets/gear aside - when it's your time I don't believe it really matters. That doesn't mean you need to court disaster and bring challenges to your life and those around you that didn't need to be there...

Life is full of risks.
You can get killed crossing the street, taking a shower or walking down a flight of stairs.

Life is full of choice.
Do you live in a bubble and never experience the extreme sense of freedom or do you get out there and taste and experience everything life has to offer?

Only you can answer that question for you.

It boils down to this - personal beliefs and choices. What are yours?
I'd love to hear them.

If you are fortunate enough to be riding today, please, take a walk around that iron steed, stay hydrated, ride like everyone around you is blind and can't see you and use respect with that right hand.

Belt Drive Betty

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  1. Personally I advocate full faced helmets. I believe that the difference in weight between a beanie or full face is minimal (2pds vs. 5pds). But the benefit far out weighs the difference. Not to mention saving your face from serious disfigurement even from a minor incident.

    As for gear, I wear full textiles from head to toe. Even on the hottest days of riding in +40 celcius, I still manage to stay comfortable with only a sense of being "warm" yet never "hot"...unless I get stuck in traffic.

    On a recent ride, I talked with a fellow rider wearing shorts and a T-Shirt and when I commented on it, he claimed that he's "good rider and not worried. At which point I commented "It has little to do with your skills when the lack of others skills may cause you issues. If you aren't worried at all, then why bother wearing that back shield?". It struck me as bit odd.

    I'll stick to my full gear thanks and my full face helmet but people are free to choose for themselves obviously. It's all about mitigating risk.

  2. I am claustrophobic and have panic attacks inside a full faced helmet.

    I have gotten wasps and bees in my ears wearing a three quarter and being allergic, that was no fun, so I wear a beanie - DOT.

  3. Betty, I used to be claustrophobic about seat belts. I'd have a panic attack every time I buckled in because I felt trapped. Was like that my entire life. Even as a child, I became a skateboarder instead of a roller skater because I wanted to be able to bail if I had to.

    I worked up to it slowly, doing breathing exercises, and rewarded myself with a bite of chocolate for every minute longer I could leave the belt on. :-)

    It took years before I could even handle 15 minutes. But haven't had a problem with it now for a long time. I worked at it so hard because the statistics speak for themselves.

    I agree that the type of helmet and gear riders wear should be a personal choice. I also agree with the quality of life argument. I'd far rather be physically dead than brain dead, or mentally impaired.

    But you can't argue that full-face helmet cause more brain or neck injuries than three-quarter or beanie helmets. The stats just don't bear it out. The number of beanie or three-quarter helmet wearing riders who have gone into a ditch or another car because they were stunned by large flying insects, rocks, birds, etc ... far outweigh the number of neck and brain injuries in full-face helmet wearers by a large margin.

    Injury and death statistics support the use of full-face helmets. The science that goes into making them and the tests they are subjected to even takes into consideration how much spin certain shapes will cause when encountering friction (which is the source of most neck twists in high-speed slides).

    I am a journalist, so it's my habit to research things obsessively. It's harder to find a single source for Canadian data than U.S. data, but we're not so different from our American cousins. According to 2006 injury and fatality statistics from the U.S. government, "Only four minor injuries (out of 4,778 accidents studied) were attributable to helmet use, and in each case the helmet prevented possible critical or fatal head injury." Here's a link to a report on that data:

    I couldn't agree more with Shaun's point about disfigurement and worse. I was hit twice last year and my bike now looks like a Frankenbike. I haven't had any of the welds sanded and painted because I want a reminder of what *I* would have looked like had I not been wearing a full-face helmet and full gear. The attending in the ER who saw me after the Pathfinder sideswiped me said my hip armor saved me from a fractured pelvis, which would have impacted my quality of life severely.

    I fully support every rider's right to make a personal choice. But we need to read the data and studies carefully in order to make an informed choice.

  4. I never tried to make an argument that full faces cause more brain or neck injuries - I said they can in certain cases.

    I appreciate the dialogue even though I feel you misread what I had to say. (Or I did not express myself well)

    I have read many similar reports to the one you linked here, I have read some amazing accident causation studies and I believe the first line of defense is ADVANCED RIDER TRAINING. No amount of good gear is going to save you if you don't have the skills.
    Good gear is the next important.

    We agree on many things but most importantly we agree that one needs NOT to court disaster for it to find them.

  5. Further to your statement about's no secret what my position is on that one. Road safety starts and ends with the motorists. If we really believe in having safer roads, than we really need to believe in advocating safer road users.

    That starts first with skill. Being more skilled means a lot though; paying more attention with greater situational awareness, less complacency and more respect for the rather dangerous act of driving that so many people take for granted. These are all attitude and respect issues, which are ironically the hardest things to change. Practical skills such as crash/obstical avoidance, skid control & recovery, slalom courses and practice on skid pads are also required.

    Of course some people will always be better or worse than others, just like their attitudes. The crying shame is that the ones who need the greatest improvement in both practical skills as well as their attitudes are by far the least likely to think that they need any improvement at all.

  6. Sorry, Betty, I didn't mean to ignore the skill issue: clearly it's the most important one for riders and drivers alike.

    It's just that I get the claustrophobia thing. I do. Since I battle it myself, I'm quite sympathetic.

    And there is just so much data out there (some of it ostensibly conflicting) I felt compelled to point out that once all the data is compared side by side, full face helmets are the cause of a statistically insignificant number of injuries. And save thousands of lives (and brains) every year.

    Which makes it worth battling the claustrophobia. If I met you, I bet I'd like your head. And would like to see it in once piece. :-)