Friday, June 13, 2008

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."

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't take a whole lot of sense to see that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle should be mandatory. It doesn't take even that much sense to see that you should not be riding on a motorcycle while wearing shorts and a tank top, but you see it every day. But you're right, Brant -- you can't legislate common sense or morality.

June 13, 2008 at 5:35 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

The entire legislation making helmets optional was stupid. When looking at the helmet laws against the child safety seat laws, it makes the "helmet optional" laws really seem dumb. In one case, the person (child) has to be buckled into a seat with certain requirements and specifications. In the other case, the motorcyclist can ride bare headed. The consistency, or lack thereof, makes no sense.

June 13, 2008 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Scott Beveridge said...

I'd love to have a motorcycle, given the cost of gas, but I'm too much of a klutz to operate one.
That said, I'd be tempted to cycle without a helmet if there was one sitting on my back porch....

June 14, 2008 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Why don't us car driving folks swarm the Capitol and complain about being forced by laws to drive with a seat belt on? I'm all for seat belts but if they're mandatory by law so should helmets on motorcyclists.

June 14, 2008 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why motorcycle riders are all jazzed at the idea of riding without a helmet in the first place. Is it some leftover rebellion against "The Man" from the 1960s?

I always wear a helmet when I ride a bicycle, for cryin' out loud, and I don't feel like I'm any less cool with it on. On average, I probably go about 13-15 MPH while I'm riding, and I'd feel nekkid without a helmet.

Besides, you must get lots of bugs in your hair when you ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

--Brad Hundt

June 16, 2008 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I think it must be some residual "Born to Be Wild" or "Easy Rider" kind of thing. And the threat isn't just from wrecking, despite the comments from the ABATE guy. How many times have you had a rock or cinder smack into your windshield at warp speed? Imagine taking that in the forehead.

June 16, 2008 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I wrecked my motorcycle twice many, many years ago. At the time, there was a mandatory helmet law, and I abided. Had I not, I wouldn't be here today. After the first wreck when I landed on my back in a ditch with my bike about 20 feet down the road from me, I was relieved and sickened to see the scratches on my helmet from where my head hit the road. The helmet spared me from splitting my skull into pieces in the second wreck as well.

At first, I wore the helmet only because I had to by law. I wanted to be "free" and "ride like the wind," and all that other post-60s, Easy-Rider rebel nonsense. I don't ride anymore, but if I ever were to mount a bike again, the helmet would go on my head before the key went into the ignition...whether the law requires it or not.

June 16, 2008 at 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed on the seat belt issue. I wear a seat belt and will continue to do so. That said, why do I have to hear a 'click it or ticket' PSA on the radio or billboards? How much dough is being spent on those programs?

Secondly, as much as I'm all for keeping the goverment out of our lives, that goes out the window when these meat heads raise my insurance costs.

June 16, 2008 at 6:31 PM  

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