Monday, January 19, 2015

Should We Protect Them from Themselves?

     I live in New York State, where all motorcycle riders must wear a helmet, and so I'm used to riders on the highways and the country roads wearing protective headgear. I couldn't help but notice that many riders in Florida do not wear helmets. I've seen more than a few speeding along the third lane of the freeway, going 70+ mph -- and, honestly, to me they look like sitting ducks, like a fatality waiting to happen, like road kill. I also noticed several cases where the rider had no helmet, but the woman riding on the back of the bike was protected by headgear.

     So I looked it up. In Florida you're not required to wear a helmet unless you're under 21. Presumably anyone 21 or older is mature enough and wise enough to decide on his own. But chivalry is not dead in Florida, since the men either allow or insist, or at least go along with the idea, that the women riding with them wear a helmet, even if they don't themselves.

     Meanwhile my cousin, who is an engineer-type of person who used to fly airplanes for the military, and then worked in computers for most of his career, is a big motorcycle enthusiast. He's also a family man who's been married for 30-some years.

     He retired a few years ago. His two children had grown up and gone out on their own, so he bought himself a motorcycle -- apparently a dream he'd had for a long time. He likes to go out on the highway, ride the back roads, feel the wind in his hair (not that he has much hair left).

     My cousin recently bought himself a new, bigger bike as a Christmas present to himself. He lives in New Hampshire, where there is no helmet law at all. He concedes that a helmet can protect the rider in certain circumstances . . .  but, oh, how he loves being out there, feeling the wind and getting an unobstructed view of the hills and the mountains towering in front of him.

     So he is pretty vocal about his opposition to any law that would tell him he has to wear a helmet. He knows he's taking a risk, but he's fatalistic about it. He doesn't think the government should "protect" him for his own good. He believes that choice should be up to the individual biker. Apparently, just like the people in Florida.

     I've probably tipped my hand about what I think. But what do you think?

18 comments:

DJan said...

Interesting question. Philosophically, I believe we should all have the right as adults to make our own decision, but then again, when a person becomes incapacitated but still alive, he or she becomes a ward of the state. I probably believe we should have the right to ride motorcycles unencumbered, as long as it's not MY son or daughter! :-)

Sherri said...

My husband is a doctor who has worked in many Emergency Rooms. They see a lot of motorcycle riders and have a word for those who ride without helmets: Donorcycles

Florence said...

As long as they have signed their organ donor card, their stupidity is fine with me.

Douglas said...

I used to ride motorcycles but gave it up (about age 39) when I began to realize that They are out to get you... especially if you are on a motorcycle. Toward the end of my riding days, I started wearing a helmet regularly. Helmets protect the head but not when you are thrown high and wide at speeds above 60. Still, I am opposed to the "nanny state" concept where government decides for you. Like most everyone, I only want to be protected from others, not myself.

Anonymous said...

As a physician, I love "donor-cycles." If one is too stupid to wear a helmet, I just hope that the key internal organs survive and can be used for transplantation.

Anonymous said...

The other issue to consider is that when someone is injured more seriously because of failure to wear a helmet, there is the cost of their medical care to consider. Insurance companies will bear the brunt of it (assuming the person is insured), but then that potentially impacts on higher insurance rates for all of us.

Carole

June said...

We in New York State are conditioned to believe that every activity is an accident waiting to happen. Our second thought is about insurance liability.
I think that if people want to ride motorcycles sans helmets, they should have that right only after waiving any claim against any other party should they end up permanently brain-damaged or otherwise crippled.
Then, let 'er rip!

Olga Hebert said...

New Hampshire takes its motto very seriously--live free or die. I understand the dislike of wearing a helmet--even though my bike has no motor. But I make my choice and wear it anyway because I realize that in any contact with my bare head and any other hard surface, my head is going to lose.

June said...

I'm back to amend my comment from "...should they end up permanently brain-damaged or otherwise crippled" to "should they suffer any injury, physical or psychological." I wouldn't even want to pay (have my insurance company pay) for a little road rash.

Tabor said...

The problem is that sometimes an accident involves others and if the others are responsible for a death, they may not understand it was the fault of the idiot too proud to wear a helmet.

Stephen Hayes said...

My opinion on this is as follows: everyone under the age of twenty-one should wear a helmet, and if you're over twenty-one and you get into an accident you forfeit your right to sue if you're injured, even if the accident isn't your fault.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

As one familiar with the damage riding without a helmet can do (and we pay for it) I think wearing a helmet is a must and should be mandatory. Too many stupid young people about. Turning 21 doesn't make you smarter.

Barbara Bomberger said...

In general, I oppose the nanny state. Leave me alone to drink my large coke thank you very much!!!

That said, as someone who has a fair amount of medical and occupational health experience..people who drive without seat belts and don't wear helmets live as often as they die. Usually as paraplegics or quadriplegics or with permanent brain damage. No matter how good the insurance, these people eventually rely on the state for ALOT of help, often living along time after said injury-taxing both the system and their loved ones.

In this case I think both helmets (on bikes as well) as seat belts should be mandatory nationally. States who don't have this law should be fined in some way, losing federal dollars.

Elle said...

As long as individual decisions do not become the cost of the taxpayer......

Tom Sightings said...

Wow, some great comments which brought up issues I hadn't even considered -- like Tabor's notion about how others might feel responsible for death or injury when it wasn't their fault. It's a thorny issue that stabs at the heart of our freedoms; and maybe my own feelings are closest to DJan's, meaning it's theoretical, until it comes to your own family.

Bob Lowry said...

I am not always comfortable when wearing a seat belt but I know my odds of surviving a serious crash are very poor without one. Also, I don't want to burden my family or others with the aftermath of my stupidity if injured or killed without one.

Same with a helmet: you are using a public highway where your risk-taking behavior affects others. Grow up and wear a helmet. Stop being so selfish.

Anonymous said...

Society nearly always winds up "paying" for irresponsible actions by the citizenry - in one way or another.

I am happy that our New Hampshirite daughter rides a Harley - with a helmet.

If we are really serious about lowering death/injury rates among motorcyclists, advocating for the use of seat belts makes sense - according to information I was presented by the US Navy.
Cop Car


Rita said...

When I did interviews with funeral directors about funeral costs and practices, one of them told me they bury or cremate old people and people who ride motorcycles. I think that says it all.

Has your cousin made his funeral plans? I suggest he do so.