No one ever accused the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board of using their “heads” when opining, and last week was no exception.
Like Big Brother, which thinks it—not the individual—knows best, the Inky “brain” trust is arguing that Pennsylvania should mandate how motorcyclists protect their brains. In their editorial, they argue that “Keystone State motorists would be safer if Harrisburg followed Trenton’s example by strengthening enforcement of seat-belt use and restoring the mandate that all motorcyclists wear helmets.”
Okay, first the most obvious point: Snooki aside, emulating anything from New Jersey is simply insane.
Second, when will folks realize that regulating everything under the sun in the name of “what’s good for us” (such as soda bans in New York and foie gras bans in California) never achieves the desired result. Instead, such legislation only serves to further the loss of freedoms for all Americans.
My wife’s stepbrother was killed while riding his motorcycle. He was an avid and highly experienced rider.
He also wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Standing in line at his viewing, I overheard people commenting that Pennsylvania should have a law mandating motorcycle helmets. Such a law might prevent deaths and mitigate the injuries that plague motorcyclists, so that line of thinking goes.
The theory, of course, has merit. Common sense tells us that wearing a helmet while riding on top of an engine, with virtually no protection, will provide at least some measure of safety for the brain in case of an accident.
However, just because a concept makes sense doesn’t mean that it should become law. Mandating helmets crosses the line because it is government intrusion on personal freedom, since it has yet to be shown that a helmet-less rider is a threat to the physical well-being of any person other than himself.
It is interesting to note, however, that even with no mandatory helmet law, many motorcyclists still wear helmets—proof that people, entrusted to their own good sense, will make intelligent decisions.
In the same way, laws mandating seat belts for drivers are misguided. How is an adult’s failure to wear a seat belt in any way affecting other people? It doesn’t, so why is it illegal? Such laws only open the door to more intrusive regulations, and fuel the “government knows best” mentality. (Of course, common sense dictates that children under 18 should be required to wear restraints because their lives are in the driver’s hands, and they do not understand the consequences of not using seat belts.)
Interestingly, many people state their philosophical opposition to the mandatory helmet law, yet support efforts to institute such a law. Why? Because riders not wearing helmets cause our auto and health insurance costs to go up.
This is a fallacy, not to mention a dangerous line of thinking.
The number of motorcycle accidents is minuscule compared to car crashes, since there are exponentially more automobiles on the road. Therefore, the idea that there would be a jump in insurance rates is an unfounded myth due to the statistical insignificance of motorcycle injuries. Beyond that—and this will seem quite callous—there is a strong case to be made that helmet-less riders actually save the health-care system money because, in catastrophic accidents, such riders are more likely to die from their head injuries. Health-care costs for the deceased are, for obvious reasons, nonexistent, while long-term medical care and rehabilitation for the injured rider are substantial.
And a point often lost in the debate is that many experienced riders feel that helmets are virtually worthless in accidents over 35 miles per hour due to the tremendous forces exerted upon the motorcyclists.
If anything should be mandated, it’s appropriate auto insurance coverage for motorcyclists, including adequate personal liability and major medical amounts. That is simply the cost of doing business when riding a motorcycle.
The greatest danger America faces is not from outside invasion or terrorist attack. Rather, it is the loss of freedoms and liberty, the bedrock values that make our society the most envied on Earth. It is one thing to have such freedoms taken away; it is quite another when we the people willingly relinquish them. And make no mistake: When the freedoms of a particular group are taken away, every citizen loses.
When citizens sacrifice their principled beliefs in favor of more government regulation, the domino effect accelerates. Every new law opens the door to additional regulation, and sets legal precedent to restrict and regulate more aspects of our lives. Tragically, by the time reforms are proposed, it is often too late. A power-hungry government, enabled by people’s greed and ignorance, is a difficult beast to tame.
This is not to say that all government regulation is unwarranted. We have limits for both speed and blood-alcohol levels on our roadways, but they are established and accepted because exceeding either poses a significant threat to the well-being of others, and that is the key difference with helmet laws.
Those calling for helmet laws need to stop riding high on the hog and use their motor skills to see that helmet-less riding—call it freedom, exhilaration, or stupidity—should always remain the choice of the individual, not the government.