Concrete and brain matter don’t mix. The result would be akin to hurling a raw egg at a cinderblock or dropping a cantaloupe from the Eiffel Tower.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

But such fine images are not enough to deter one of my friends, a guy who insists on finding out about the brain matter theory firsthand.

He recently got a new motorcycle and refuses to wear a helmet.

Surely he must be one of those guys who are much “too cool” to wear a helmet, I thought. Kind of like those dudes who are too cool to wear sunblock or spay their dogs.

Since I love arguing with this guy, I armed myself with info for him. Like the fact that motorcycle fatalities were increasing – while all other traffic fatalities were going down – in states that loosened their helmet laws, according to a story in USA Today.

Motorcycle helmet laws starting getting laxer around 1995, the report noted, once the federal government stopped its game of only giving highway funds to states with helmet laws.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Yet my pal, who calls helmets “brain buckets,” would have none of it. His reason for not wearing a helmet is he’d rather be dead than permanently injured or paralyzed. “Helmets don’t save lives – just bodies,” he said.

He then sent a lengthy e-mail that doubled as a physics lesson explaining his reasoning.

To summarize, he said when a motorcyclist crashes, the rider is sent at “impact velocity” towards whatever he crashed into and his head goes in all kinds of weird directions. This puts undue stress on the cervical vertebrae, which often cannot handle it, and thus the neck snaps like a chopstick and the spinal cord is severed. Permanent paralysis.

He added a helmet just adds to the weight of the head’s weird directions, making a chopstick neck snap even more likely.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

He closed the e-mail by reminding me he had three fused vertebrae from a long-ago mishap (not motorcycle related). He also told me to “look at the disproportionate amount of bike riders who are paralyzed from bike incidents while wearing their helmets.”

So I Googled “Guys too cool to wear helmets” and “Snapped chopstick neck” but didn’t get much in the way of usable data. Then I found some ranting and raving against helmet laws on the Easy Rider website.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

The author first notes a statistic offered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration then blasts it to Timbuktu.

Fact #16: Reported helmet use rates for fatally injured motorcyclists in 1995 were 55 percent and 42 percent for passengers, compared with 54 percent and 49 percent, respectively in 1994.

So…. over 50 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were wearing helmets and still died! That doesn’t sound like a very laudable statistic to me. And once again, what were the circumstances of the remaining less than 50 percent motorcyclist fatalities? What makes NHTSA think that wearing a helmet would have saved even one of those lives? Additionally, NHTSA does not say how many helmeted riders wound up in wheelchairs after their accident because of a broken neck that the helmet caused.

…. I wonder what their estimate is for the number of motorcyclists who were killed or paralyzed as a result of wearing a helmet! Where’s those numbers, Bunky?

I wonder if my friend runs the site.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Still, only two states lack any type of helmet law – Illinois and Iowa, according to Bikers Rights.

Arizona requires helmets for anyone under age 18 and joins 26 other states with age requirements for helmets. Twenty states make helmets mandatory for all ages. The state of Florida not only requires a helmet, but also requires all motorcyclists have medical insurance.

Making medical insurance mandatory to even ride a motorcycle doesn’t give off a very hopeful vibe.

And none of it still answers the question about helmets saving lives but leaving a rider severely and permanently injured.

I’ll have to stick with my belief that wearing a helmet while fully exposed on a two-wheeled machine zooming through traffic just seems like common sense.

Besides, if I change my stance I’ll have to admit my friend may be right – an admission that is uglier, even, than a cantaloupe splat from the Eiffel Tower.



Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who will be wearing a helmet – preferably one with a giant spike – when she motorcycles with her friend. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at and E-mail

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski


What do you think?

Have you heard of helmets being detrimental?

Do you/would you wear one riding a motorcycle? Why or why not?