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[What says Texas?]
Sept. 11, 2007, 1:50PM
Motorcycle helmets should be required, feds say
By KEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON � States should require motorcycle riders to wear proper helmets, government investigators urged today as part of several recommendations that seek to stem a steady rise in motorcycle deaths.
Members of the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously approved the motorcycle safety recommendations, wading into a contentious issue that has pitted motorcycle rights' groups against safety organizations in many states.
"The simple act of donning that helmet can begin the process of preventing that type of fatality and serious injury," said NTSB chairman Mark V. Rosenker.
As motorcycle riding has become more popular, motorcycle deaths have more than doubled since 1997. In 2006, motorcycle deaths increased for the ninth straight year, to 4,810 motorcycle deaths, compared with 4,576 in 2005.
NTSB officials noted that non-helmeted riders were three times more likely to suffer a brain injury in a crash than those wearing a helmet.
Motorcycle groups questioned the ability of helmets to provide complete protection and prevent internal injuries in a crash. They said more rider education programs are needed.
"If a truck pulls out in front of you and runs a stop sign, how is that helmet going to prevent an accident?" asked Steve Rector, state coordinator for ABATE Iowa, a motorcycle rights' group. He also noted that motorcycle registrations and the number of miles traveled by motorcyclists have increased in recent years.
Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said there was "no scientific evidence that motorcycle rider training reduces crash risk and is an adequate substitute for an all-rider helmet law."
Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia require riders to wear protective helmets, a significant change since the late 1970s, when nearly every state required helmet use. Twenty-seven states only cover some riders, typically those under 21.
Three states � Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire � have no helmet laws.
In six states that repealed their universal laws beginning in 1997 � Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania � helmet use plummeted following the repeal of the laws, NTSB officials said. Louisiana reinstated its mandatory requirement in 2004.
The agency also recommended that federal safety officials develop a plan for states and others to improve motorcycle safety and the government develop guidelines for states to gather accurate data on riders.
The NTSB only has the power to make recommendations, but its staff and board members personally lobby for changes the board considers most important.
[And how do you feel about talking on a cell phone while riding a motorcycle without a helmet?]
It is too hard to hear the phone at any speed, because of the wind. Texting is far better.
Clearly, a mandatory helmet law will save laws. However, the ultimate question one should ask revolves around, "When is governmental intervention justified and when is it not?"
Take the motor vehicle safety belt laws for instance. No state allows children to go unbuckled and nor should they. Children do not have the cognitive ability to understand the consequences of not using this safety devise. Parents are correctly held accountable for the safety of their children. Most adults on the other hand understand (but may not necessarily in practice follow) "cause and effect".
I think banning trans fats might save lives and, in turn, medical costs for everyone else. Let�s take a step further and mandate exercise for the elderly like Cuba does. However, allowing the government (albeit city councils or whatever level) to mandate personal choice-making is quite risky when the bulk of the costs of such personal decisions are absorbed by the decision-maker himself. Only when negative externalities are large enough to materially and visibly affect society, should one beg for government to lend a helping hand.
Thus, when personal choices begin to affect fellow citizens, that�s when an impetus for state regulation become more rationalized.
In the issue of government-mandated helmet laws, it is clear that the bulk of the consequences for getting into an accident are mostly felt by the individual riding the bike, not a disinterested citizen. Unmistakably, losing your life due to not using your helmet is a decision the bike rider (an adult with a brain to discern cause and effect) will pay and that is the largest cost of all.
I took the Motorcycle Foundation Safety Course offered by my local Harley dealership and run by a motorcycle officer just under a year ago. As I understand the law in Texas, if you do not wear a helmet you are supposed to have a sticker on your motorcycle license plate that shows you have paid a small fee and have adequate insurance. I believe more than the minimum insurance must be carried.
I love to ride and choose to wear a helmet. But Texas does seem to have come up with a reasonable compromise.
How about the family of 4 that hits the hot dogging motorcyclist who isn't wearing a helmet?
How will the driver of the other vehicle deal with the death?
Think for a minute about the young woman driving who can't stop in time and kills someone at low speed because the person riding a motorcycle wasn't wearing a helmet. How does it affect her?
Highway accidents with fatalities affect every person who sees them. Families too.
What always troubled me was folks that don't want the government telling them to wear a helmet, but then believe they are entitled to lifetime indigent health care after their traumatic brain injury. Of course, I guess that is what our blind nanny form of government is all about--unintended consequences, bad results, too much control and too little.
Why limit the helmet law to motorcycles? A mandatory helmet law for car drivers would prevent far more injuries and save far more lives than a motorcycle helmet law.
I have no figures to support this, but I am fairly confident that accidents resulting from cell phone use during driving are much more frequent, often lead to more devasting injuries, and create more third-party victims than those arising from helmetless motorcycle riders. I have yet to see a bikerider attempt to use a cell phone while riding.
It depends on your theory of government and there are lots of intertwining issues...the news was saying yesterday morning that in California, the state government is attempting to limit the number of fast food restaurants to combat the obesity problem and there is of course much debate.
But as long as we are all paying insurance companies for everyone else's health care, it really is our business. Unfortunately, that goes against everything I believe about personal choices and accountability....and is the same issue as seatbelts. If my insurance rates were not going to be affected, I would say it's all personal choice. But if it affects my bottom line, then it's hard to say that someone else gets to choose whether I pay for them to be on life support or expensive medications the rest of their lives.
Well, they either bluetooth or they text like Boone above.
and as an aside, I saw an ad for Geico or something that was saying that food is the most frequent cause of accidents--so even more reason for trans fat legislation!!
The other day I saw a middle-aged woman driving along I-35 with a burning cigarette in the same hand as the phone on which she was talking while the other hand was wrapped around a burger. Although I was impressed with her multi-tasking ability at that time, I gave her a wide berth. Possibly, she needed legislating--even a helmet might not save her though.
The "adequate insurance" needed to get a sticker exempting the rider from having to wear a helmet is the munificent sum of $10,000.
If you are forced to wear a helmet with a face-guard then you will not be able to eat or talk on the cell phone. So, maybe the legislature should mandate football helmets...
A requirement that all riders wear helmets at all times doesn't distinguish between the experienced, safe rider who putts through the neighborhood to the grocery, and the putz who weaves through freeway traffic at 90 mph in shorts and flip-flops.
Doubt if there will ever be any scientific evidence either way, but I know for certain that at low to moderate speeds, I am much less able to be aware of all that's going on around me when helmeted. If you are going to wear one, there doesn't seem to be a point in going less than full-face, and even the very best will restrict your vision and severely restrict your hearing.
There is more value to me in emphasizing accident avoidance on a bike than in trying to minimize injuries. I'm betting that most serious accidents involve relatively inexperienced riders who get into situations their level of skill doesn't qualify them to handle. If you spent 20 grand on your first ride, I'm talking about you.
The logic behind requiring helmets (and seatbelts) comes down to money (doesn't it always?).
The helmet law is designed to prevent injuries that lead to the expenditure of millions of dollars of public-funded health care after someone with inadequate insurance wipes out w/o a helmet. That sounds reasonable to most politicians, since the other alternative is to deny those seriously-injured un-/under-insured people free healthcare and let them die, which strikes people as being needlessly cruel.
But just wait until everyone gets "free" healthcare, then watch and see what the government bean-counters suggest you have to do to control public health care costs. Helmets will just be the tip of the iceberg, my friends.
I'm thinking we'll eventually all have to walk around in big inflatable bubbles for our own protection.
He had always held high regard for the freedoms he enjoyed
So he rode off on his scooter, no helmet he employed
The sun on his face and the wind in his hair revitalized his soul
A soul that quickly departed him as our hero lost control
The collision wasn�t violent; not the high speed impact kind
Twas a drop and slide maneuver caused the man to lose his mind
Road rash would have likely been the only injury to bear
If not for the steadfast light pole, suddenly appearing there
The trooper shook his head and sighed, taking in the scene
Scraping up a dead man�s brains never failed to turn him green
The rider�s wife and children wailed as the trooper brought the news
The helmet was a Christmas gift he swore he�d always use
Nothing in this world is free; it�s never been that way
For every opportunity there�s a price that we must pay
So lay this man beneath the soil and etch upon his stone
�He valued liberty more than life, the choice was all his own.�
A friend of mine, an experienced rider from Austin, once told me that those who ride without helmets serve to improve the overall gene pool.
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