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Government Motorcycle Mandate?
May was Motorcycle Awareness Month and we have spent the spring months doing a variety of motorcycle safety awareness press releases. Because of our posts and releases, we have received feedback from a variety of folks expressing that helmets should not be required and that government has more important issues than regulating motorcycle helmet legislation. They are right….the government does have more important things to regulate. I really appreciate free debate….it is what built this country.
I’m a little biased. I work with families of motorcycle crashes daily and I am struck by the horror of the deaths and serious injuries to victims of motorcycle crashes. So, I remain ever curious…..what data/research supports my feeling and support of helmet regulations for motorcyclist? I consulted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as they compiled more research than just about any other organization regarding highway safety. The NHTSA compiled 25 different studies and found some “research problems” with reviewing all of the studies under one umbrella. Comparing statisitcs state to state was a problem but what were the overall findings?
- Every study examining the question of medical care costs found that nonhelmeted patients incurred higher average hospital charged than helmeted patients on an average of 30%
- When comparing the costs of a head injury opposed other injuries. The data indicated that patients with head injuries incurred higher charges than trauma patients with non head related injuries anywhere from 79-178 percent.
- California studies indicate that hospital costs of motorcycle-related head injured fell from $36.6 million in 1991 to $15.9 million in 1992 after the state’s universal helmet law went into effect…..policy makers have to look at that statistic when considering health costs and personal safety.
Data for studies were not completely accurate as one expert indicated that really severe head injuries did not incur a large medical cost because the victim simply died before incurring much if any of a medical bill.
The NHSTA study compilation is exhaustive and long, but sobering. The health costs amassed by motorcycle victims are enormous. Nonhelmeted motorcycle victims suffered greater injury, greater number of fatalities and larger health costs. So if we examined it from a purely monetary aspect, helmet legislation seems like an obvious decision.
According to the NHTSA, motorcycles are by far the most fuel efficient type of highway travel. Because motorcycles are capable of high speeds and offer minimal occupant protection, they are also the most hazardous highway vehicles. They have the highest crash costs per person-mile. According to cited studies, it was determined through the statistics that helmets are the best-evaluated way to reduce motorcycle deaths and injuries.
Because so many motorcyclists value their independence, legislators have met much resistance in enacting federal helmet laws. I have encountered that same resistance to my blogs, posts and articles when discussing helmet laws. The federal government has twice enacted and then repealed laws designed to promote state helmet laws.
I do have a proposal that addresses motorcylist’s need for freedom and independence and also the need for safety and reducing the amount of health costs we all absorb due to increased serious injuries of motorcycle crashes.
Let’s learn something from the Germans and their regulation of the Autobahn. While the Autobahn is loved by the Germans because of the perception of unlimited speeds, there are actually some speed limits around metropolitan areas. Also, motorcycles and pedestrian are not allowed on the Autobahn….the Germans have a very strict policy about pulling over and alcohol consumptions. On the spot citations are given as well as compulsory items such as First Aid Kits.
I propose that motorcycle helmets be optional but motorcyclists not wearing a helmet must be able to produce proof of more than adequate healthcare coverage…..I would suggest at least a million dollar policy. Meaning, if you want to ride without a helmet and risk your own noggin, don’t ask the rest of us to absorb your health care costs. Sound radical? Not really. The Germans and other European countries have been implementing such policies for years(Car and Driver Magazine).
The German Autobahn actually experiences lower accident rates than do American highways. A requirement of driving on the Autobahn is registration, driver’s license, insurance papers, and reflective vests/first aid kids. It is not a constitutional right to operate a motor vehicle nor it is a constitutional right to operate a motorcycle. I emphatically support no tolerance legislation for drinking and driving. Riding without a helmet is really a personal decision because if you are involved in an accident, you are most likely to be injured or killed. This scenario is quite different than regulating alcohol and driving. Choosing to drink and drive endangers everyone on the road around you and not just yourself. I don’t want government to tell me I have to wear a helmet but putting laws in place to be sure that people help pay for the risks they take seems reasonable. We individually responsible for the mistakes we make.
From a purely monetary point of view, some type helmet legislation is imperative. From a personal point of view, helmets for motorcyclist is a no-brainer. I don’t want to sound unsympathetic to the families of motorcycle crash victims……I represent too many of them and know the pain they have experienced through the loss of loved ones. So let me be clear…..I peronally support motorcycle helmet use as a safety measure. I also endorse motorcycle safety training programs as a part of motorcycle licensing. I endorse safety training programs for operators of all kinds of motor vehicles, be it personal automobiles, semi-trucks, ATV’s, motorcycles or boats…..we all need safety training and reminders. The promotion of safety and awareness is one of the few ways we can impact the number of accident victims
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or fatality due to the negligence of others, you should consult a personal injury attorney to determine all of your options. Personal injury attorneys offer free consultations in order to help you better ascertain if you need representation…..call around…talk to several…gain all of the information you can following a serious accident. Attorneys at my firm are available every day of the week and accessible via 1(800) 685-3302 at any time. Call Zane T. Cagle for a free consultation.
How the Autobahn Works, Baxter, E. http://http://auto.howstuffworks.com/autobahn2.htm
Eight Rules for Driving on the German Autobahn, Car and Driver, 4/2009, http://ww.caranddriver.com/features/eight-rules-for-driving-on-the-german-autobahn