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Let motorcyclists decide on helmets

For years I have argued against mandatory helmet laws for adult motorcyclists. Helmet laws, I believe, are an infringement on my right to choose what I do with my body.

Then, with the helmet law finally overturned in Texas this September, I took a 3,000-mile motorcycle trip through five states without helmet laws and I wore my helmet all but five or six of those miles.There's no contradiction or hypocrisy here as I see it. What I've always wanted was freedom of choice when it comes to what I wear and when I wear it. Most motorcycle riders I encountered on the highways in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado also chose to wear helmets.

I paid close attention to the headgear of other motorcycle riders but soon gave up trying to keep an accurate count. That's because on the third day of the trip we went through Ruidoso, N.M., which was clogged with between 30,000 and 40,000 motorcycle riders in town for an annual rally.

We paused about an hour along Ruidoso's main drag with thousands of parked motorcycle riders watching thousands of other motorcyclists parade past. Thousands of them coming together at the same time and the same place to do the same thing must surely represent one of America's last bastions of individuality.

While half or more of the motorcycle riders in town chose to not wear a helmet, it appeared 80 percent or more of motorcycle riders chose to wear a helmet when traveling on the highways.

Of those who do not wear a helmet when traveling on the highways, most of those take a safe and reasonable approach to their riding. I saw only a few helmetless riders who rode fast and aggressively.

The government-knows-best proponents of mandatory helmet laws always ignore the fact that motorcycle riders understand the risks they take and exercise more caution when the risks increase.

Four-wheeled motorists do the same when they choose a speed they feel is comfortable and safe for the driving conditions. That's why motorists automatically slow down when it begins to rain even without being ordered to do so by federal and state safety nan-nies.

Likewise, it's quite likely that mandatory helmet laws give a feeling of overconfidence to some percentage of motorcycle riders who take greater risks and have more accidents at higher speeds than they might have had if left to choose their own mode of travel.

My nonscientific 3,000-mile, five-state survey of motorcycle helmet habits revealed that Harley-Davidson riders, who appear to place a higher priority on a group lifestyle than on the technological advancement of their mounts, are most inclined to not wear a helmet when traveling on highways.

While most Harley riders appear to prefer to putt along in slow-moving groups, the relatively few fast and aggressive helmetless riders I saw on the trip were Harley riders blasting around mountain turns with upraised arms attached to ape-hanger handle bars and with gaily colored head scarves and do-rags flapping in the wind.

I want more than a gaily colored scarf on my head when I am practicing canyon-carving techniques on mountain roads. With apologies to Voltaire, I may not agree with their choice of headwear, but I will defend their right to wear it, although not to the death.

The five or six miles that I chose to not wear my helmet were in various towns after we checked in to our lodging following a day's ride. On those occasions we often chose to wear baseball hats while we rode over to fill up with gas or check out the town.

Those five or six miles were few, but they were my choice, they were legal and they were good.