We recently read this paraphrased comment from Republican Nevada Sen. Don Gustafson in the Las Vegas Sun: “As far as Nevada’s motorcycle helmet law goes, 31 states have repealed similar laws and research has shown little change in motorcycle crash death rates, Gustavson said. Most injuries from crashes are to the arms, legs and other parts of the body—not the head.”
Gustafson was referring to Senate Bill No. 150, which was sponsored by Sens. Gustavson, Barbara Cegavske and Scott Hammond. That bill would principally change the state’s motorcycle helmet laws so people over the age of 21 would not have to wear a helmet while riding.
The question that arises for us is, why in the world would a legislator bother to mislead the public when the simple truth is all the argument he or she needs?
Let’s get a couple of things straight. First, research does not show that the repeal of helmet laws causes little change in motorcycle crash death rates. In fact, according to research on fairwarning.com, when helmet laws are repealed, and despite overall reductions in death rates on the road, deaths for unhelmeted motorcycle riders and passengers go up. In fact, since helmet laws began to be repealed, motorcycle deaths have more than doubled. When you have a second, pull out your smartphone and read this research (not while you’re driving, please): http://tinyurl.com/7gqrfzy.
The story has a great infographic using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that says, “In 1997, 1 out of every 20 traffic fatalities was a motorcycle rider. In 2010, it was 1 in 7.”
In fact, to us people with the Class M driver licenses, Gustafson’s statement is ludicrous, and so far beyond what we know to be true, it’s hard to believe he said it. We’ll take it one step farther. You know those full helmets, the ones with the chin bar? Those helmets are actually safer than the half-helmets you see the rebel riders wearing because the majority of motorcycle deaths are caused by damage in the lower part of the face caused by kissing bumpers. And you know why? Because those riders’ brains are protected by the half-helmet.
Now, many readers will get this far and decide not to read on. “Oh, it’s just those commie liberals spouting liberal nonsense that I can’t be bothered to consider because it contradicts what must be true in order for me to believe nonsense like ‘research has shown little change in motorcycle crash death rates.’ ”
But by considering all the facts, we’re going into our decision with eyes wide open.
At least the motorcycle riding members of this staff think motorcycle helmet laws should be repealed. Of course, their minimum insurance must include the cost for a lifetime of care in a vegetative state, so taxpayers don’t get the bill. These riders, after all, are not putting anyone but themselves and their passengers at risk. And adult passengers get to decide whether they get on at all.
There are enough laws that require people to protect themselves. Shouldn’t this be Darwin’s law at play? In other words, the government shouldn’t require us to wear helmets or seat belts or close-toed shoes, and people should have the freedom to choose whether they want to risk death in order to feel the wind in their hair. That’s what freedom is all about.
It’s only logical.