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July 3, 2011

A motorcycle rider participating in an event in Onondaga, NY to protest New York State’s mandatory helmet law has wrecked and died of a traumatic brain injury doctors say was preventable with a helmet.

According to ABC News, Philip Contos, 55, rode without a helmet in an annual event organized by American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE) on Sunday to protest the helmet law. During the ride, Contos applied the brakes of his motorcycle, lost control and flew over the handlebars, landing on the roadway and striking his head on the pavement.

Emergency services transported Contos to Upstate University Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead. He suffered a skull fracture and traumatic brain injury (TBI) from the wreck.

“The medical expert we discussed the case with who pronounced him deceased stated that he would’ve no doubt survived the accident had he been wearing a helmet,” state Troopers told ABC News 9 in Syracuse.

New York is one of twenty states that have mandatory helmet laws requiring motorcycle riders to comply by wearing a helmet approved by the Department of Transportation, called a DOT Approved helmet.

USA Today reported in 2008 that motorcycle deaths increased in states that loosened helmet laws.

“Laws mandating helmet use at all times have no significant effect on the safety of motorcycling in general, although use of a helmet may or may not be beneficial in individual accident circumstances,” ABATE’s position on helmet laws said, using statistics as old as 1981 and as recent as 2001 to support their position. “The decision on when to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle should remain with each responsible adult rider.”

The Associated Press reports that 3,615 people died last year in motorcycle accidents.


  1. Gravatar for John Stanley

    Being a motorcyclist my self here in the U.K,I add my comment because Abate according to the news clip on Yahoo,said ""Apparently he was riding a motorcycle that wasn't his usual one. Some vehicles have different quirks."...

    So as I read it,they are blaming the bike and not the ride.

    Not surprising then that with comments like that we motorcyclist get a bad press.

    I will add I'm very sorry for the loss of this biker,and even sadder that it could have been avoided if he had warn a crash helmet.. R.I.P

  2. Gravatar for Terry Bennington
    Terry Bennington

    My condolences to Mr. Contos' family and friends.

    If the state of New York requires a DOT-approved helmet, then no one can legally ride a motorcycle in NY: there are exactly zero helmets that have ever been approved by the DOT, nor has the DOT ever created a list of "approved" helmets. REFERENCE:

    Manufacturers place a sticker on the helmet, indicating that the *manufacturer* certifies the helmet meets FMVSS 218 specifications. Of the helmets the DOT randomly tests (but NEVER "approves"), nearly 50% fail every year. REFERENCE:

    Words matter. Accuracy matters. Get it right... it's called a "DOT Compliant" helmet, and even then, you have about a 50/50 chance it actually is.

    I'm curious why no one discusses the 200,000 car drivers who suffer a TBI in accidents every year, according to the CDC and Brain Injury Association of America. Or the 595,000 people who fall down and suffer a TBI, every year. Or the 52,000 people who die from a TBI every year. There seems to be an undue concern over the 16,000 TBI's acquired while riding motorcycles, when everyone ignores the 1.7 million costing us $60 billion every year.

    Look out - here come the "but we wear seat belts" rationalizations from those driving cars. Why do you think many states put "organ donor" notifications on your driver's license?

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