published January 3, 1992
HELMET LAW MIGHT SAVE A
HANDFUL OF LIVES, BUT ITíS TOTALLY UNFAIR
You probably have seen someone being
given a ticket for riding a motorcycle without a helmet this last week. Thatís because our legislators,
determined to orchestrate every move we make, passed the motorcycle
helmet law which became effective January 1. This
is a law that has been kicked around for a long time, but this time our
new Governor Wilson, showing a great strain of political wimpery,
actually signed it into law.
His reason and the reason touted by the
politicos is that helmets will save lives. In
fact they estimate as many as 300 people will still be with us next
year on the lawís first anniversary as a direct result of wearing
a helmet. This may be right and California
with nearly 30 million inhabitants will have a few more.
1. But, at what cost?
2. Is this a good law?
3. Is this an equitable law?
To answer the first question. At the cost of individual freedom; a right
that our politicos are attempting to take away from us at every turning
Looking at question number two; as to
being a good law, it is not.
If you compare the helmet law to the
seatbelt law, there are many similarities, but there are several huge
differences. Both laws are designed to
prevent injuries and/or unnecessary deaths. Seatbelts
have proven over the years that they do, indeed, save lives. As written, the helmet law is supposed to
correspond to the seatbelt law in its attempt to save lives. Many people are walking around today thanks
not only to their seatbelt, but also to the body-saving cage they were
driving. Being in a truck or car offers a
tremendous amount of protection from an impact if you are strapped in
and can stay in (with) the vehicle. Wearing
a helmet while operating a motorcycle will definitely give a
personís head some added protection, but having wrecked several
times on motorcycles in my youth, I never figured out how to stay on
(in or with) my motorcycle when it went flying down the road or off the
cliff. Come to think of it, Iím glad
the bike(s) and I went different ways. Maybe
I was lucky or maybe it just wasnít my time, but I managed to
live through the traumatic events with no lasting (that Iím aware
of) damage. What saved me was my brother. He taught me how to ride and he taught
me how to get off a motorcycle as well. I
had to learn (on a dirt track) to lay the bike down, and go into a
slide or a roll while protecting my head. Because
of his training which drove my poor father up the wall, I survived my
wrecks with road burns, stitches, and bruises to both my body and ego.
When I rode, I loved the feeling of the
wind blowing through my hair. If you have
never ridden a motorcycle, there is no way that I or any politician can
describe the ďfreedomĒ of cruising down the road on a Hog. I never considered riding a motorcycle any
more dangerous than riding in or driving a car. The
danger part, nine out of ten times, comes from the operator and not
from the vehicle. If you drive a car or
a motorcycle like a fool, youíre bound to get in trouble.
Are the possible 300 lives we might save
worth the denial of freedom to everyone from a Hellís Angel to a
corporate president who chooses to ride without a helmet?
We have 26 million registered vehicles and 17
million registered drivers in California. Do
we really want to live in a society in which every action in
controlled, regulated and taxed? With the
passage of this law, whatís to prevent the fools in Sacramento
from soon legislating that you must wear a seatbelt and a
helmet when you operate your car?
Looking at question number three; as to
equitable, this law is not. It was
designed to give cops yet another tool with which to harass the
citizens. Letís compare again
between the seatbelt law and the new helmet law.. If
youíre not wearing your seatbelt, you can only be cited for that
infraction if an officer pulls you over for some other
violation. And, currently the
average fine is somewhere in the neighborhood of $20.
And, the ticket is not recorded by the
dreaded DMV as so many points against your driving record.
And, the information is not turned over to
your insurance agent so that he or she can jack your insurance rate up
to the sky. Also, when this law was
first passed, officers routinely gave people courtesy warnings for a
long time before they actually started issuing citations.
On the other hand, every cop in the state
was poised to start pulling over motorcyclists beginning last Wednesday
if they werenít wearing a helmet. There
is no courtesy warning period. And,
the fine is $100 for the first stop and higher for subsequent stops. And, the ticket garners points with the
dreaded DMV. And, this terrible
crime is instantly reported to the insurance agents who will have a
field day with it. So, five times the
fine; counts against your driving record; possibly raises your
insurance rates and worst of all, it gives cops a period of
ďopen seasonĒ on all motorcyclists. There
is nothing equitable about this law.
From personal experience, I can tell you
that wreaking a motorcycle at the legal speed limit is likely to cause
great bodily harm whether youíre wearing a helmet or not. I can also tell you that some of the 300 saved
individuals will probably wish they had died when they wrecked.
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