NTSB Recommends Motorcycle Helmet Laws Nationwide

September 12, 2007 - Posted at 8:01 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- A steady rise in motorcycle deaths nationwide has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to unanimously recommend that all states require motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

As most bikers know, Arkansas currently has a freedom of choice law...meaning that riders can choose to wear or not wear a helmet when they hit the road.  The NTSB recommendation is sending a speed bump through the biking community.

Novelty or not, motorcycle helmet may be making a mandatory appearance in Arkansas and there are plenty of bikers on both sides of the issue.

"It's the freedom of having the wind in your face and just in general feeling the freedom around you, to see everything around you, to feel everything around you," said biker James Burres.

"Almost all the injuries we see with riders not wearing a helmet are catastrophic, bad," said Tim Brickell of Medic One Ambulance Services, "A lot of traumatic brain injuries, and a lot of death from not wearing a helmet."

"Common sense and safety will tell you that with a helmet is safer then without one," said Harley Davidson salesman Fred Wilson.

The Jonesboro Harley Davidson store sells about 300 helmets a year...at least one with every bike.

Having a motorcycle helmet is a step in the right direction but if you do have one, just a reminder that you might need to replace it at least every five years or if you drop it. Having a crack in it could make it unsafe.

"If it's not worn properly, or if it doesn't fit properly or if it's cumbersome, someone's not going to wear it. But if it is the right type of helmet and it's worn properly, it can actually save your life. Much like a seatbelt, a seat belt can save your life," said Brickell.

"Statistically a seat belt save lives, statistically a helmet does not," said Association Motorcycle Club Member Curtis Kirksey. More than 4,800 bikers died last year in motorcycle accidents and that number has doubled since 1977.  But the number of bikers on the road has also increased.

"I have never seen a cause to have to wear one," said biker Ronny Tucker, "It's just like driving a car more or less, you just kind of watch what you are doing. There is always that possibility that you may get into an incident but it's not something that you are conscious of all the time."

A federally mandated motorcycle helmet law could impact Arkansas tourism.  Many bikers from Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana --all states that have helmet laws-- come to the Natural State on motorcycle rides.