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Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow

by FastFred Ruddock, September 7, 2006

I have been riding free all summer even in states with all rider helmet laws such as North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Although I have not worn a helmet this entire summer I have not been stopped or ticketed in any of these states. I was told by many so called brave bikers, rights activists, and hillbillies that I would get a ticket if I rode lidless in Lake Lure. After repeated lidless trips through Lake Lure and other small towns in WNC the same bikers and rights activists changed their story and told me I would get a ticket in Virginia unless I wore a helmet. Well I am here to tell you I rode several thousand miles in broad daylight on Interstates, back roads, big cities and little towns in those states and not one police officer made any attempt to stop me in North Carolina, Virginia, or West Virginia.

I have been hearing the usual rumors that some of our members may lack motivation to attend meetings or otherwise get involved. I am not giving those rumors much credit as our membership is larger than ever in the history of ABATE of South Carolina and still growing. Somebody is out there recruiting new members and I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. Good job and please keep up the good work!

However if you do need some motivation to get more involved I suggest you take a lidless ride through either of our neighboring states. The feeling you get in your stomach as you ride without a helmet pass a state trooper, county cop, city cop or small town cop in North Carolina or Georgia will remind you just how lucky you are that enough bikers care to keep South Carolina free. Join those bikers at our ABATE legislative meetings and the statehouse to help do your part to keep South Carolina free. Remember to vote in November and support folks like Andre Bauer who also oppose paternalist laws such as an all rider helmet law.

I have been asked by many folks how I get away with riding without a lid. Well a police officer in Buncombe County explained the North Carolina helmet law is nearly impossible to enforce if the rider is wearing any sort of hat. According to North Carolina state law code 20-140.4 (a) (2): "No person shall operate a motorcycle or moped upon a highway or public vehicular area unless the operator and all passengers thereon wear safety helmets of a type approved by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles." However the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles has failed to create a list of approved hats. Therefore it is impossible for the state to prove your hat is not an approved type of safety helmet. The law in Georgia is very similar.

I suggest it may be wise to wear a hat or do-rag if you would like to build a stronger case against any helmet ticket you may get while riding without a helmet in Georgia or North Carolina. West Virginia's helmet law is written differently but the state troopers I encountered there did not seem inclined to enforce the helmet law. Virginia's helmet law is written even tighter than West Virginia's law but again the many police officers I encountered in Virginia did not seem inclined to enforce their helmet law.

Others have asked me why I ride without a lid in helmet states. I ride without a lid because it is fun and I wish to challenge the unjust laws. The argument I wish to put forward in court rests upon the reciprocity of state highway laws. Cars, trucks, and trailers do not have to pull over at each Stateline to add safety equipment if they are legal in their state of registration. For example although North Carolina requires tags on trailers you cannot be ticketed for towing a trailer without a tag if the vehicle towing it has a South Carolina tag. Furthermore you do not have to remove dark window tinting if you enter a state with laws against the tint provided the level of tinting is legal in your state of registration.

If you do not understand the logic of actively opposing unjust laws through civil disobedience and the courts then I suggest you take the time to read Henry David Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience" and John Stuart Mill's essay "On Liberty." Prohibition was ended largely because of clogged court dockets and the state's inability to successfully prosecute cases.

If you have never ridden without a lid in a helmet law state then you do not begin to understand the fun you are missing. Visit to see some pictures from the many lidless rides of this past spring and summer. If you want to join the fun then call or email me about an October lidless ride. Free lodging in Western North Carolina is available for those brave enough to soar like eagles without a lid; that alone should offset the cost of any potential ticket.

The fine for riding without a helmet in both Georgia and North Carolina is only about $150. How much is your freedom worth? Ask my friend Ralph Bell who rode into Georgia without so much as a hat and obtained his first helmet ticket within five miles of the Stateline. Ralph is not simply paying the fine; Ralph is fighting the helmet ticket in court. I want to thank my friends who dare to be free regardless of efforts by others to intimidate or control them. This article is dedicated to my friends that dare to ride free in Western North Carolina: Bad Bob, Gwen, Roger, Michelle, and Stan.

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