Charleston News - Helmet Debate
Motorcycle helmet debate continues
Sunday, January 13, 2008
A recent letter to the editor lamented a recent Post and Courier article regarding helmets and motorcycle accidents.
The author defies the "safety-crats" who "are so anxious to save lives" and concludes that we should "let those who ride decide" about wearing helmets. The Charleston community needs to be aware of the widespread reverberations of such a feeble argument.
The topic of government control and individual freedom is a complex one. Yet on the subject of helmets, consider a situation that makes an individual choice a public responsibility: A motorcycle rider who chooses not to wear a helmet has an accident after which the rider is rushed to the hospital. Let's say the rider is uninsured, but to stay alive requires extensive emergency care for head trauma at a local hospital. Because emergency care is never refused, the cost of caring for the rider must be absorbed by the hospital and ultimately by the taxpayers who fund those hospitals.
Therefore, the issue is not as simple as letting "those who ride decide." If the burden of caring for someone ignorant enough not to wear a helmet can fall on the public (which it often does), then the government, acting in the interest of taxpayers, has a right to mandate the wearing of helmets.
No taxpayer wishes to or can afford to fund the perilous and, since the writer points out helmets "are defined as articles of clothing," unfashionable decision not to wear a helmet.
MARK A. PACULT
Don't force helmets
Some of our legislators have already informed the press they will not amend the current helmet law. Fatal head injuries happen in automobiles, too. Why would you only require motorcyclists to wear helmets? The seat belt law didn't reduce deaths in 2007.
A task force is making recommendations, but they do not include helmet law changes. The changes that are recommended by motorcyclists will cost the state money and effort to fix, and state agencies will have to participate. Driver responsibility, education, road maintenance and enforcing laws are proven factors in reducing crashes .
Sales of motorcycles are rising, boosting the economy. When the California helmet law went into effect in 1992, sales dropped significantly, according to the California Department of Transportation.
Rising health costs are not attributable to motorcyclists. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the majority of motorcycle-crash costs are paid by privately purchased insurance.
Some feel safer wearing a helmet; others don't. Helmet laws succeed only by decreasing the number of riders.
Most know the risks in riding and must be free to choose protective equipment, but not be forced to.
Task Force Committee Member
Club Bridge Road
St. Helena Island