“If we locked up every male from ages 16 to 25, crime would essentially end overnight” argues attorney Mark Geragos. He has a point. We commit more than 90% of the murders in this nation, mostly in that age range. Between these ages the male’s prefrontal cortex is undergoing massive changes, leading to irrational decisions and increased risk taking. He’s also full of testosterone and likely fairly competitive. Since locking them up isn’t feasible, we shouldn’t come down so hard on them for how their biology leads them to act. We should give them motorcycles.
During this stage of development young men have no real legal outlets for the aggression their bodies feel naturally. They’re angsty, competitive, and relatively fearless. Since they lack a healthy outlet for these facets of their personalities, I think that when we witness a noisy blur on the freeway we should smile instead of scream.
The average 20 year old male motorcyclist’s urges and the needs of society are often wildly at odds. He’s full of testosterone, which makes him aggressive. His prefrontal cortex is still in the process of developing a reasonable manner of discerning risk. He’s already self-selected into a high risk group by purchasing a motorcycle, and that motorcycle (like sports cars) has the scientifically proven effect of giving a temporary spike in his already sky-high testosterone levels. Add in a little bit of competition between him and another rider or two, and you can see where this is going. With the exception of the very few that have the money to pay for trackdays, they’re going riding on the street.
In short: it’s a matter of (not very much) time before he will be doing 150mph down the highway, and he’s pretty much powerless to prevent it.
In all my years riding motorcycles fast, I’ve noticed a few things about the other hooligans I rode with:
- They’re remarkably law abiding when they get off of their bikes. Occasional pot smoking aside, nobody’s robbing liquor stores.
- They’re generally great employees, if you can keep their attention. At my company, if you wanted to piss off most of the department leads at once, you’d just knock over the sportbikes in the parking lot. They have an intensity that just isn’t matched by the guys who want to spend their free time fishing.
- There’s almost never a drunk rider among them. It’s too risky. Even in their developing brains, it’s obvious that getting drunk and riding a wheelie is a bad scene. Not so say it never happens, but in my experience it’s extremely rare.
- They’re wildly confident. If you want to develop some confidence in yourself, just spend some time speeding on a bike. If you’re not dead in a couple of years you’ll be very comfortable in your own skin.
- They make amazing friends. There’s a special camaraderie that is built by spending hours together in risky situations. You get more out of doing 130mph together than you do playing video games, plus the smirks you share when the officer walks back to his patrol car with your licenses are some of the most genuine displays of emotion on this earth.
Youth is when you make the memories you spend the rest of your life looking back on. These guys are making life-long friends, having fun, and (for the most part) not hurting others. They won’t all survive, but without that risk they would find something else more dangerous to occupy their time. I know I would have.
Ultimately these young men have one opportunity to be young. While I’m not saying cops shouldn’t stop them, parents shouldn’t scold them, or significant others shouldn’t worry about them, I am saying that we should all cut them a little slack. After all, it beats getting their kicks by doing drugs and hurting folks.
Have faith that they’ll grow out of it. Until that happens, check your mirrors for blurry motorcycles.