July 4, 2011— -- A New York man died Sunday while participating in a ride with 550 other motorcyclists to protest the state's mandatory helmet law.
Police said Philip A. Contos, 55, hit his brakes and his motorcycle fishtailed. Contos was sent over the handlebars of his 1983 Harley Davidson and hit his head on the pavement.
He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
"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 Trooper Jack Keller told ABC News 9 in Syracuse.
The ride Sunday was organized by American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, known as ABATE, a group of motorcycling enthusiasts who lobby for motorcycle awareness and freedom.
The Onondaga chapter of ABATE has sponsored the helmet protest ride for the past 11 years every July 4 weekend.
"ABATE is very saddened and still shocked about the fact that we've lost another rider in Philip and that our hearts go out to him and our prayers as well," Syracuse chapter president Christinea Rathbun told ABC News 9.
New York is one of 20 states that requires motorcyclists to wear helmets.
Jim Hedlund of the Governors Highway Safety Association told the Associated Press that a helmet meeting federal standards reduces the chance of fatality in an accident by more than 40 percent.
Still, ABATE believes each motorcyclist should have a choice how they ride.
"Mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent accidents," it says on the ABATE of New York website. "The decision on when to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle should remain with each responsible adult rider."