Mandatory Helmet Law? Is CDC Trying to Reduce Motorcycle Use?

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) is asking the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whether it is trying to reduce motorcycle ridership by pursuing a federal mandatory motorcycle helmet law, the American Motorcyclist Association and American Iron Magazine reports.

The congressman also is questioning the economic impacts the CDC cited to support mandatory motorcycle helmet laws.

In a letter to CDC Director Thomas Frieden (enclosures included) dated Nov. 21, Walberg, who is a lifelong motorcyclist and a member of the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus, asked “…is it the goal or strategy of the CDC to reduce the use of motorcycles — a legal mode of transportation — by recommending and pursuing a federal helmet law?

“If so, how would this strategy be implemented and by what authority would it be instituted?” Walberg asked. He also questioned whether Frieden believes the CDC is the federal agency best suited to research and make recommendations related to transportation safety.

The CDC, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is headquartered in Atlanta.

Walberg sent the letter after analyzing a presentation titled “Economic Impact of Motorcycle Helmet Law: A Systematic Review.” The presentation was made by the Helmet Law Review Team of the Community Preventive Services Task Force on Oct. 23. The 15-member task force, each of whom is appointed by the CDC director, makes recommendations to the CDC and reports to the U.S. Congress about community preventive services, programs and policies to improve health.

The task force is preparing to recommend that all states have universal helmet laws, which means that all riders, regardless of age, would be required to wear helmets.

In his letter, Walberg strongly opposed its findings and conclusions. One part of the presentation, in particular, “infers a positive awareness of helmet laws with the potential for reduced motorcycle use,” Walberg said. “The presentation goes on to conclude that ‘economic evidence shows that universal motorcycle helmet laws produce substantial economic benefits, and these benefits greatly exceed expected costs,’ however, there is no reference whatsoever to the significant economic costs anticipated by reducing motorcycle use.

“In fact, the only costs identified by the Task Force on slide 37 are the costs of purchasing a motorcycle helmet and the enactment and enforcement costs of helmet laws, which are concluded to be negligible,” Walberg said. “Not only does this contradict the earlier findings about how imposing motorcycle laws would discourage motorcycle use, but it ignores the positive economic impact motorcyclists provide.

“Motorcyclists not only enjoy riding on American roads, they also spend billions of dollars touring and attending rallies,” he said. “Reducing motorcycle use would have a detrimental effect on the motorcycle-industry, dealer sales, tourism, associated employment and related tax revenues. As an avid and experienced motorcycle rider, I believe government should be in the business of promoting the recreational, economic and environmental benefits of responsible motorcycle riding – not discouraging it.”

Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations and a former U.S. representative and U.S. senator representing Colorado, praised Walberg for “asking some tough questions that need to be asked.

“The AMA doesn’t understand why the Centers for Disease Control is involving itself in motorcycling when it is supposed to be protecting Americans from diseases,” Allard said.

“Motorcycling is not a disease that needs to be eradicated,” he said. “It’s a legal form of transportation and a source of responsible recreation for millions of Americans nationwide.

‘We anxiously await the CDC’s answers to Rep. Walberg’s questions,” Allard said.

The AMA and American Iron Magazine strongly advocates helmet use but believes adult helmet use should be voluntary. Simply put, mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent crashes. Both organizations support actions that help riders avoid a crash from occurring, including voluntary rider education, improved licensing and testing, and expanded motorist awareness programs.

To read the AMA position on voluntary helmet use, go to


  1. livingwell says:

    I have tired of doctors, emt’s, cops, and other overpaid “keepers of the public” telling us how to live for the sake of “just saving one life.” Oh how they’ll tell you of the horrors they see. Well, let me remind you, that’s you job. You are there to clean up the mistakes of a free people, and free people sometimes error, and if the error occurs while not endangering others, then your job is not to lecture us, or tells us how to live. Clean up the mess and move on. That is your job, and only your job. If the emt here does not like what he sees, quit! I have watched more than my fair share of people dying of alcohol, drugs and heart issues/cancer. Most never really lived life as they would would have liked. Many were too scared to venture out into the world of perceived dangers brought to them by the “fear industry” of which include, but not limited to those mentioned above. Leave me alone, and I will not harm others in my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. We all die, and boredom, and heavy-handed regulation lead many to perish early after a life of quiet desperation. Liberty to steer my life as I see fit does not include a crushing federal government and the inevitable suffocating regulations. Mr. emt, do your job and leave me alone.

  2. Patrick McClellan says:

    The most effective motorcycle safety device is the one that sits between your ears.Hands off my freedom.

  3. Jim Jennings says:

    I am a biker and also an EMT I am all for mandatory helmet laws. Helmets save injury and lives.I know bikers will say it is there right and freedom to ride the way they want to ride buut is it worth death, sever injury, or a coma? What is the price to your loved ones to lose you or see you in this state of being? I am sure that you will say not me I am a good rider but what about the other people on the road that don’t pay attention or just plain don’t see you? Working a crash sight will open your eyes. I know because I have worked those crash sights. If you don’t wear a helmet for you do it for your loved ones. I know helmets areb hot and uncomfortable but it is worth it. I wear a full face helmet every time I ride. Signed EMT Jim Jennings

  4. Alan Rubenstein says:

    This is absolutely absurd. To use our tax dollars through CDC to create a law that has nothing to do with disease is a total waste of our federal dollars. Leave this to each state to handle laws affecting helmet laws.