Car Corner
Texas removes the helmet law, and my views on motorcycles

February 1, 1999
By Scott Lewis

No car reviews this month, so I will talk about a topic that has been on my mind for a few months. Texas recently (I don’t know exactly when) removed the law requiring motorcycle rider to wear helmets.

I remember early in my Air Force carrier I needed a ride to the airport. A friend offered to take me on his motorcycle. At the time, Texas did not have a helmet law, but the Air Force did. So I got a ride in a car from one friend to the gate of the base, and then hopped on my other friend’s motorcycle without a helmet. His spare was at home. This came in handy. Had there been a helmet law I would not have taken (and probably not been offered) the ride.

Later Texas implemented a helmet law. I remember it was near the time California was wrestling with this issue. I remember Gary Busey being a strong advocate against helmet laws. Then Busey was in a near fatal motorcycle accident. His accident could have left him with a serious head injury, but he managed to recover. After that, he started preaching in favor of the helmet law. (This is the best my memory can recall these "facts." They may be somewhat inaccurate, but the point is made… Gary Busey was against helmets before an accident then in favor of helmets after an accident.)

I don’t know the current helmet law in California, but now Texas does not have one. I have mixed feelings on this issue. On the one hand, I like the lack of a helmet law in case I need a quick ride from someone with a motorcycle, and they don’t have a spare helmet handy. I would not ride a motorcycle regularly without a helmet. If people used good common sense, they would wear a helmet - law or no law. One the other hand, people tend to be stupid. I would hate for my tax dollars to pay county hospital bills for some idiot doing something stupid on a motorcycle without a helmet.

So I am on the fence. We have seatbelt laws, and I wear mine almost all the time. I tend to leave it off when making an 11:50 PM run to Blockbuster around the corner (literally) to return movies on time. I tend to be barefoot, or wearing my Taz slippers too. Am I risking my life? Maybe, but it is a really short trip.

If I took a motorcycle to Blockbuster, would I be risking my life without a helmet? Sure. Would I wear the helmet if there were no law? Probably not. If there were a law, I would take the car. I would be less likely to be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt than for not wearing a helmet.

While we’re on the subject… what motorcycle would I get? I have not followed motorcycles in some time. The friend that gave me the ride to the airport had a Yamaha FZ1100 (I think. It was 12 years ago). I remember seeing 115MPH on the speedometer on the way to the airport. I would never ride with any other person at speeds like that, even with a helmet. But this friend is, without a doubt, the best driver/rider I have ever met. We talked about doing one of the races in Nevada (or Arizona) were you drive your car flat out for nearly 100 miles, legally. He would drive, and I would navigate. Even if it was in my car. I trust him more than myself. High praise indeed.

Back to my choice. A while back I seriously considered a motorcycle. I used to like a Kawasaki model. I don’t remember the exact model, but it was a 500. EX500, I think. It was a two-cylinder engine. It was an average performer, but could beat almost any car. Nothing super fast, but easy to ride long distance, and a sporty fairing for looks. It would make a great daily rider. It had a nice upright stance, but with mild super-bike looks. Definitely not a crotch rocket. Although I love the idea of a super fast car, I would be way too scared to ride a super fast motorcycle. I prefer 4 wheels on the ground.

If my wife would let me, I would consider a scooter of some kind today. It would be great for getting back and forth to work. It would be difficult dropping off my 4 year old son at school in the morning, but what the hey… I am only dreaming. I like the idea of ultra easy traffic navigation, and super great gas mileage.

Just let my helmet be optional, so I can run to Blockbuster in a pinch without it.