Thursday, July 03, 2008


Helmets: why it shouldn't be up to you

There’s been a lot of debate, over the years, about motorcycle helmet laws. Clearly, helmets are helpful in some kinds of accidents, but, the other side says, it’s my own problem — shouldn’t it be up to me? If a motorcycle rider is willing to risk a head that resembles a post-Halloween pumpkin, in exchange for the comfort and freedom of going topless... why shouldn’t that be up to him?

Pennsylvania now has an answer to that question:

In 2003, Pennsylvania legislators repealed a law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Researchers who studied deaths and injuries over the next two years say that decision had lethal, and expensive, consequences.

The researchers compared accident statistics from the two years before repeal with numbers from the two years after. After repeal, helmet use among riders in crashes decreased to 58 percent from 82 percent. At the same time, head injury deaths increased 66 percent and head injury hospitalizations increased 78 percent.

Meanwhile, total acute-care hospital charges for motorcycle-related head injuries increased 132 percent in the latter period, compared with a 69 percent increase in other injury costs. The study was published in The American Journal of Public Health.

This, while the rate of crashes (number per 10,000 motorcyclists) remained constant.

And make no mistake: those increased costs are not borne solely by the drivers who chose not to wear their helmets. The insurance companies are involved and the hospitals are involved and the emergency services are involved, and, ultimately, you and I pay for much of it through subsidies and rate increases.

That is why it shouldn’t be up to you. I think we should keep government out of where it doesn't belong. Here, though, there's a clear and compelling public interest.


Benny said...

Here in Germany the law requires us to wear helmets. And that's good.

Jeff Green said...

I don't know... I'm wondering if the up-tick in injuries isn't related to a little careless riding on those who have stopped wearing helmets. There's a sense of freedom that these folks have not knwon (unless they've ridden in Connecticut where this doesn't seem to be a problem) and that things will calm down after people get some experience.

W.M. Irwin said...

Recently, a co-worker of mine was killed when he was racing down his home street. He had just bought a new motorcycle the previous day and was showing it off to a friend, without wearing a helmet. Along the same lines, two other co-workers lost sons just a few weeks apart when each of them lost control of their cars and had accidents while not wearing their seat belts. Yes, there may have been careless driving involved in all of these, but the outcome would probably have been vastly different had the drivers been wearing their safety equipment.

Laurie said...

If they insist on not wearing helmets, they should at least make sure their organs are donated...

lidija said...

I think there is no difference between this and the seat-belt law.