Every year, they return to the legislature to demand this law. Every year, it's defeated mainly because the Safety Department says it would cost an extra $3 million a year in public money to scrape these helmet-less cyclists off the highways. Update: This year is no exception. The bill died for lack of a second in a House subcommittee.
"We want to save lives," says Scott McColpin, the leader of the biker gang at the Capitol. His group is Concerned Motorcyclists of Tennessee, whose slogan is "United We Ride, Divided We Drive."
"Part of it's a simple matter of physics," McColpin says. "A four-pound motorcycle helmet traveling at 50 mph is equivalent to a 200-pound impact. Our necks are not designed to support that kind of impact. Your body suddenly stops but your head doesn't. That's what killed Dale Earnhardt. Helmets are not saving lives."
Nobody believes that, do they? we ask McColpin.
"The statistics prove it," he insists. "I don't want to die. I had a good buddy of mine who died two years ago in Myrtle Beach at Bike Week. He was a motorcycle safety instructor. He had a 15 mph accident. A lady pulled in front of him and he t-boned her car. He went over the car and his helmet caught in a pothole in the road and it broke his neck. If he had not been wearing a helmet, he may have scraped his head up a little bit but he wouldn't be dead."
Do we even need to say that this is all complete bullshit? A 2006 newspaper analysis showed deaths in U.S. motorcycle crashes had nearly doubled in the previous decade, mounting to 4,000 annually, as more states repealed mandatory helmet safety laws. One federal analysis concluded that nearly 700 lives could have been saved in one year alone if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.