Threats to OHV in America, Part 3
AMA's Rob Dingman talks about helmet use and
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- For the past 21 months,
American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)
President and CEO Rob Dingman has been leading
the world's largest motorcyclists' rights
organization through a reorganization to
rededicate the AMA to its core mission:
protecting and promoting the future of
motorcycling and the motorcycle lifestyle.
In this third in a three-part series of
interviews, conducted by
AmericanMotorcyclist.com, the website of the
AMA, Dingman discusses the Association's
comprehensive approach to rider safety, helmet
laws and rider education.
AM: The AMA does many things for its members. It
sanctions amateur racing, provides discounted
services and products, and lobbies for
motorcycling interests. Yet, many in the
motorcycling community seem to hold onto
misconceptions about what the AMA stands for.
How do you respond?
RD: We stand for choice, and we accept the
responsibility that comes with making choices.
This attitude, I might add, is very prevalent
among motorcyclists, both on- and off-highway,
whether they are AMA members or not.
The AMA, and our sister organization the ATVA
(All-Terrain Vehicle Association), advocate for
personal responsibility on the part of all
motorcyclists and OHV (off-highway vehicle)
riders. Not surprisingly, the typical AMA or
ATVA member describes himself or herself as
someone who rides and acts responsibly. They
don't want unnecessary regulation, preferring
instead to make educated, responsible choices
about the motorcycles they ride, the riding gear
they wear, and the places where they ride. For
that reason, the AMA and the ATVA do not support
mandates. Mandates often result in unintended
consequences for the people who are most
affected by them.
AM: The AMA talks about a comprehensive approach
to motorcycle safety. What does that really
RD: That's a good question, and one that many
people ask. A truly comprehensive approach to
rider safety includes training, licensing,
proper gear and riding unimpaired. All of these
components contribute significantly to the
safety of riders.
AM: How does the AMA's philosophy of choice
factor into its position on mandatory helmet
laws? And how do you respond to some people who
say that the AMA is "anti-helmet?"
RD: I simply say that it's not true. The AMA
strongly encourages everyone to wear a properly
fitted motorcycle helmet that is certified by
its manufacturer to meet the DOT standard.
However, we also believe that appropriate gear
should remain a personal choice for adults, and
not something mandated by law. The AMA does not
oppose mandatory helmet laws for minors. But
again, once a person reaches adulthood, the
decision to choose whatever gear he or she feels
is appropriate should not be mandated by the
AM: So why does AMA oppose helmet mandates?
Where's the harm?
RD: Because mandates have unintended
consequences. Proponents of mandatory helmet
laws see these laws as a cure-all for motorcycle
injuries and fatalities, when in fact they do
nothing to prevent crashes from occurring in the
first place. We want to prevent crashes, rather
than simply deal with their consequences.
Let's face it, almost any motorcycle crash is
going to expose the rider to far more harm than
the driver of an automobile. And the fact of the
matter is that there are much smarter ways to
prevent motorcycle injuries and fatalities, such
as rider education, riding unimpaired and
driver-awareness programs that include modules
within existing driver education courses
alerting drivers to the presence of motorcycles
in the traffic mix.
The AMA and its members battle every year at the
federal and state level to protect funding for
rider education and driver awareness. When
mandatory helmet laws are passed, safety
officials tend to think "problem solved," and
they pass the burden of an unfunded mandate to
the enforcement community. Once that happens,
funding for preventive strategies like rider
education and driver awareness is often shelved.
This makes the problem worse for riders, not
AM: Are there any other examples of mandates
that the AMA opposes?
RD: Yes, we oppose mandatory rider training.
Some states have gone so far as to mandate rider
education, but we don't agree with this
strategy. While on the surface this argument may
have a nice ring to it, the reality is that
every state program is currently stretched to
the breaking point just trying to meet the needs
of motorcyclists who seek training. When states
pass these unfunded mandates, they force riders
to wait many more months for training.
One unintended consequence is that some riders
will then forego training altogether and risk
riding unlicensed, which is nearly impossible
for law enforcement to monitor. And unlicensed
riders are already overrepresented in crash and
As an alternative to mandatory rider training,
we believe that greater funding of existing
programs, improved training reciprocity between
states, and other incentives -- for example,
insurance discounts -- would result in more
riders completing rider training courses.
On top of that, riding instructors are hard to
find, train and keep. These people are
enthusiasts who want to give something back to
motorcycling, and often they are not well-paid.
When you force students who don't want to be
there into the classroom, the instructor corps
becomes disenchanted and dwindles rapidly at the
very time that more of them are needed.
AM: What message does the AMA want to deliver to
a beginning rider who is unfamiliar with these
RD: If I could stress one thing about
motorcycling to a novice rider, it would be
this: take responsibility for how you ride. That
means get trained, get licensed, wear protective
gear, including a helmet, ride unimpaired, run a
quiet exhaust, observe the rules of the road,
and ride, ride ride! When you do these things,
motorcycling is a lot of fun. And remember to
join the AMA -- because we make sure your right
to ride is protected.
This is the last of the three-part series,
"Threats to motorcycling in America,
conversations with the AMA's Rob Dingman." To
read all three parts, including Dingman's
answers to questions about public land access
and excessive sound, go to
About the American Motorcyclist
Since 1924, the AMA has promoted and protected
the motorcycling lifestyle. AMA members come
from all walks of life and they navigate many
different routes on their journey to the same
destination: freedom on two wheels. As the
world's largest motorcycle organization with
nearly 300,000 members, the AMA advocates for
motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local,
state and federal government, the committees of
international governing organizations and the
court of public opinion. Through member clubs,
promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more
motorsports competition events than any other
organization in the world. Through its
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA
preserves the heritage of motorcycling for
future generations. For more information, visit