There was an article in yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune quoting the Emergency Nurses Association‘s National Scorecard on State Roadway Laws criticizing the state for not having mandatory motorcycle helmet laws for riders in place. The score of any given state is determined by the answers to 13 different questions. The question concerning mandatory motorcycle helmets state “Does the state have a universal motorcycle helmet law requiring all riders to wear a helmet?”
I would like to make an observation about the question. The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) uses the term “universal” when what I think they mean is “mandatory.” Universal means”relating to, affecting, or accepted by the whole world.” Another word they us, and a word that is all-to-often used without thought is “law.” Law is defined as “a rule of conduct or procedure recognized by a community as binding or enforceable by authority.” When the ENA mashes “universal” and “law” together in this particular context they create an impression that everyone wants helmet laws. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have written about the law and motorcycle helmets extensively in this blog and throughout this website. I strongly believe that rider education is a better place to start than requiring all to wear helmets. The freedom to wear or not wear a helmet should be up to the individual. People then say that it should be the same for seat belts – that wearing them should be up to the individual.
Motorcycles are different. People ride motorcycles for a reason – primarily freedom. Motorcycle riders, by and large, are a unique people. Generally we enjoy freedom, adventure and the thrill of the ride and the open road. Is there anything wrong with that? To restrict what people do with their lives is intrusive – especially when what they are doing is not hurting anyone except themselves.
The argument for helmets then becomes motorcycle riders without helmets cost the taxpayer exorbitant amounts of money to care for them when they are injured. To my knowledge there are no definitive studies that support this. Common sense tells me that those killed as a result of not wearing a helmet, although tragic for that rider and family, costs the taxpayer little. There are other arguments but I refer you to other places on this website.
I am confident that if the ENA had their way everyone would walk around with helmets on – ridiculous – probably. By the way – I have been riding a motorcycle for about 20 years – all with a helmet most of the time. This might appear contrary to all of the foregoing but my right is to wear or not wear a helmet. I am simply exercising my right just the same as the rider next to me chooses to exercise his right by not wearing a helmet. Let freedom reign.