Helmet Laws Unfair Unless They Apply To All Motorists


by John Lenon
I was catching up on my reading this morning, when I ran across your Oct.19 editorial concerning motorcycle helmet laws. I've ridden motorcycles on the streets and highways of this state, as well as competed in off-road trials, motocross and desert racing since 1964. I've always worn a helmet, whether racing or riding for pleasure, so I'm well aware of their benefits.

I was also riding motorcycles during the '60s and '70s and witnessed the enactment, and eventual repeal, of motorcycle helmet laws in this state. It was a very contentious, vocalized, and polarizing period for motorcycle riders. Accordingly, I've reflected on this issue long-and-hard for several years. Having said that, I would like to submit the following insights:

1. Camps on both sides of the motorcycle helmet law issue ground these simple arguments into dust long ago. Even the most eloquent and persuasive presentation will fall on deaf ears when you start down this road. For every study showing motorcycle helmet benefits, there's another decrying their dangers. While I can't speak for everyone, I can tell you that most motorcycle riders view helmet laws as liberal nannyism.

2. At what price freedom? Motorcycle helmet laws are directly tied to larger issues. Sure, health care costs, insurance rates, and public safety issues are considerations, but so are dwindling personal liberties. And therein lies the trade-off. How many freedoms are you willing to sacrifice for the "motherland?"

3. All of the concerns stated in your editorial apply to automobile drivers as well.

4. Without going into all the myths surrounding helmets, they do protect against head and brain injuries and death in all forms of usage, not just motorcycle accidents. I'm sorry if this offends my fellow riders, but to argue otherwise is willful ignorance.

5. Assuming one is genuinely concerned with saving lives, saving money and reducing insurance premiums, I would point out that death and disability from head injuries in automobile accidents vastly exceeds that of motorcycle accidents.

Any "smart law" necessarily needs to include all drivers of motor vehicles on our roadways, not just motorcyclists.

In conclusion, the only effective way to accomplish what you want is to pass a helmet law for all motor vehicle operators. This is the fair and prudent way. To do otherwise would be prejudicial and hypocritical on the part of our lawmakers. Even to suggest re-enacting these tyrannical statutes is repugnant and inflammatory to us.

I would ask your readers the following: Since deaths and injuries due to automobile accidents are the greater part of the problem, would you be willing to share in the solution? Are you willing to give up your freedom and wear a helmet for the social and financial good of this country, or is that too great a tradeoff? That's the way we feel too.

If you'll consider my remarks honestly, I think you'll agree. In the meantime, I'm wearing a helmet -- how about you?

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