A bare-headed motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died on Saturday after he flipped over the bike’s handlebars and hit his head on the pavement, the Associated Press reported.
The motorcyclist, 55-year-old Philip Contos, who was riding in the protest with about 550 motorcycles, probably would have survived the accident if he had been wearing a helmet, state troopers said.
The accident happened Saturday afternoon in Onondaga, a town in central New York near Syracuse.
Contos was driving a 1983 Harley-Davidson on a helmet protest ride organized by the Onondaga chapter of American Bikers Aimed Towards Education, or ABATE, troopers said. The organization states that it encourages the voluntary use of helmets but opposes mandatory helmet laws.
The Onondaga chapter of ABATE has sponsored the helmet protest ride for the past 11 years every July 4 weekend, according to ABC News.
Jim Hedlund of the Governors Highway Safety Association told the Associated Press that a helmet that meets federal standards cuts the chance of a fatality in an accident by more than 40 percent.
New York is one of 20 states that requires motorcyclists to wear helmets.
ABATE believes motorcyclist should have the choice to not wear helmets, and its members don't believe the government should be telling bikers whether or not to wear a helmet, the Post-Standard reported.
Contos’s death will not change that position, Christinea Rathbun, the president of the Syracuse ABATE chapter, said Sunday.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “It’s not going to stop us protesting our right to wear a helmet or not wear a helmet. It’s your own risk.”
Rathbun was not on the protest ride Saturday, but she said she had spoken with people who were. Rathbun and Richard Contos, Philip Contos's brother, said the accident happened when one of Philip’s bootlaces got stuck in a chain. He looked down to see what the problem was, looked up and saw traffic slowing and then slammed on the brakes, Richard Contos said, repeating what state police had told him. That caused the motorcycle to fishtail and Philip Contos to lose control, state police said Saturday.
Contos's accident is the only accident ever to happen in the Onondaga ABATE protest ride’s history, Rathbun said.