Time to reinstate the helmet law
The government can't legislate us into safe and healthy living. If it could, someone at this very moment would be snatching the lunch meat out of my fridge and the cigs from my trouser pocket. But most people believe the government does have a right to legislate safety in the area of motor vehicle operation, and it's clear that our "leaders" in Harrisburg made a big mistake when they overturned the law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. About a year ago, when figures showed an increase in deaths of motorcyclists following the helmet law repeal, advocates for "helmet choice" cried that it didn't take into account the big increase in people riding cycles. Well, a new study has refuted that argument. University of Pittsburgh researchers found that in 2004-05, the first two years after helmet use was made optional, 131 motorcyclists died of head injuries, up from 79 in 2001-02. That's an increase of 66 percent. But this study also factored in the rise in motorcycle registrations, and even taking that into account, the increase in fatal head injuries was 32 percent. The Associated Press pointed out that the study was released on the two-year anniversary of the cycle accident (shown above) involving helmetless Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was lucky to survive the wreck. So what's the story now from the "pro-choice" contingent? Here's what genius Steve Zurl, a spokesman for the bike group ABATE, had to say: "The helmet is no silver bullet. Obviously, the safest way to ride is to not have to deal with the collision altogether." Thank you, Steve, for that brilliant insight. All we have to do is get the word out to all the drivers of Pennsylvania to quit having those damn accidents. That's the real problem. Some might say it should be a matter of personal choice whether to wear a helmet, but you and I are paying more for insurance because of people who choose to ride motorcycles without headgear. The Pitt study found that hospitalization charges for cycle-related head injuries soared by 132 percent between the two study periods, from $53.5 million in 2001-02 to $124.2 million in 2004-05. And when the insurance companies have to may more for people to be treated, you and I pay more. State Rep. Dan Frankel of Allegheny County has introduced a bill to reinstate a mandatory helmet law, based on the "stunningly dramatic" study. He said just the cost to taxpayers is reason enough for the change. It seemed incredibly stupid at the time when lawmakers did away with the helmet law while still requiring much-better-protected motorists in cars and trucks to wear seat belts. Did they do it because of a deep-seated respect for individual rights. Hell no. They did it because they got tired of swarms of bikers mobbing the Capitol every year to demand the repeal. And I seriously doubt that Frankel will find enough support to get his bill passed. His cowardly colleagues don't want the bikers descending on Harrisburg again. The bottom line is that you have to be remarkably dumb to ride a motorcycle on a public thoroughfare without a helmet. There's a good reason why some folks refer to these bare-headed motorcyclists as "future organ donors."