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9:58 PM Tue, Sept. 18th

Motorcycles: Helmet or no helmet?

Metro Newspaper Service

Metro Newspaper Service

PRESCOTT - Whether local motorcycle riders actually wear helmets or not, they seem to agree that there should not be a federal law requiring helmets.

Arizona is among the 25 states that have partial helmet laws aimed at teenage motorcycle riders. It joins 17 other states in requiring riders 17-years-old and younger to wear a helmet. In Colorado, passengers younger than 17 years of age must also wear a helmet.

Two states require riders 18 and younger to wear helmets and seven states have set the helmet requirement at 20 years or younger. Motorcycle riders must wear a helmet in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Lawmakers in Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire have yet to adopt helmet legislation and no law is in place.

"I think everyone should wear a helmet, but I don't think it should be a federal law," said Doug Hale of Hale's Motors in Prescott.

Hale said a percentage of riders are claustrophobic in a helmet, "however, it is a small percentage."

Hale believes that a full-coverage helmet is best.

"I have seen people killed that were only going 15 miles per hour," he said.

The guys at Prescott Valley Motorcycles have different opinions on helmets.

Randy Durbin is opposed to helmets, Stephen "Spark" Jennison wears a partial helmet and Ed Besonson wears a full-coverage helmet.

When asked if local riders wear helmets, Durbin said, "This is Arizona," referring to the state's warm (hot) weather.

Durbin said helmets are "cumbersome, hinder peripheral vision and restrict hearing. Although, in certain situations they do save lives."

Durbin said wearing a helmet is a personal choice.

"Wearing a helmet makes many people more comfortable," he said.

Durbin also races motorcycles. He said on the track he races "in full safety equipment, including a helmet. I wouldn't get on the track without it."

Jennnison wears a partial helmet, a step down from the full-coverage helmet he wore while living in Massachusetts. He said the state requires all riders to wear a helmet and he always wore a Department of Transportation approved helmet.

"Cruisers are less likely to wear helmets and most sport bike riders wear helmets," Jennison said.

The pros of wearing a helmet, Jennison said, include depending on the helmet to save lives. He said helmets also protect riders from wind and rain.

"It's a choice. Arizona law says riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet but I think it should be 21 years of age. If fact, I wouldn't have a problem if it was raised to 25," Jennison said.

Hale said that while some people between the ages of 18 and 25 are irresponsible, he thinks the 18 age limit is good.

Besonson wears a full-coverage helmet.

"I used one before and had at incident, at 75-miles-per-hour, and I walked away because I was wearing good gear. However, I still think it should be a choice."

Jennison said he knows of people who died in motorcycle accidents even though they were wearing a helmet.

"The helmet protected their heads, but they suffered internal injuries," he said.

Durbin said he heard it was illegal to wear a helmet while driving a car because it restricted vision and hearing.

"Wouldn't it do the same thing on a motorcycle? However, I don't know if it is true," he said.

A quick Google search indicated that the helmet in a car controversy has been around for a long time. However, no one has verified it is illegal to wear a helmet while driving a car.

Hale probably explained it best why people ride without a helmet. "They like the feel of the wind in their hair," he said.

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com