Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Feeling the Wind or The Pavement

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Feeling the Wind or Feeling the Pavement

Most motorcyclists will attest to the slogan “Live to ride” but shouldn’t it also be “Ride to Live”? In South Carolina, a person can drive a car at the age of sixteen or buy cigarettes at eighteen, but if they are twenty or older they don’t have to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. South Carolina should institute a mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists even though it will take away a personal freedom it will be replaced with personal safety. Some motorcyclists insist that wearing a helmet is against their right to choose, or that they don’t feel as independent and free, and wearing a helmet can impair their vision and hearing, thus endangering them more. The fact is helmets do save lives and prevent injuries.

In America, a personal freedom to choose is paramount, and most motorcyclists believe that it is their personal freedom whether to wear a helmet or not. However, motorcyclists do not operate alone on the roads. There are many other vehicles involved and they may not always be looking for the motorcyclist. In support of this, Republican Alan Powell of Georgia believes that helmets can cause as much injury as they prevent. Even though statistics from the Brain Injury Association of Georgia show that riders who don’t wear helmet are three times more likely to be injured or to die in crashes (Williamson,C1). In California, motorcycle-related deaths dropped nearly forty-five percent since the helmet law was passed in 1 (Morain, A). A person’s right to choose is one of America’s greatest freedoms and gives one a personal feeling of independence, but with freedom comes responsibility and not everyone is as responsible as they should be.

Helmet laws are to protect motorcyclists as are seatbelt laws there to protect vehicle passengers.

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The personal freedom of the motorcyclist stops when it starts to infringe on someone else’s freedom. Since most unhelmeted motorcyclists have been found to uninsured medically, the costs of their hospital bills are left for the individual taxpayer. Over a one-year study of unhelmeted motorcyclists injured, it was found their charges were .75 times higher than those of helmeted riders due to the head trauma received. In 18, the NHTSA estimated 66 million dollars was saved because of helmet use and an additional 454 million could have been saved had all motorcyclists been wearing helmets (NHTSA).

The feeling of the wind blowing through your hair when riding is an unbelievable feeling of independence and freedom, but at what price does that feeling come? A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released some statistics on riders who wear helmets and those who don’t. These are a few

- States without helmet laws have nearly doubled the death rate of those who require helmets.

- Within the 50 states, the average death rate varies from 8 to 7 percent lower for those riders who wear a helmet than for those who don’t.

- Cyclists who don’t wear helmets are 40 percent more likely to die from brain injuries than those who do.

- Between 184 and 10, helmets saved an estimated 4,100 motorcyclist across the nation (State).

Despite these statistics riders still say that helmet laws restrict their personal freedom.

Although there are many designs of helmets that are made to help with this problem. The full faced helmet does cut down a riders hearing and peripheral vision, but the helmet known by slang as a “skull cap”, which is DOT approved, gives a rider full vision and the ears open. A simple solution

to curb the death rates and injuries of motorcyclists would be for the government to implement similar laws as the have for seatbelts. This law is that if a state doesn’t require wearing a seatbelt then their road and highway funding will be cut. If this were begun the rider’s choice, freedom and vision and hearing may be hindered, but it seems a small price to pay for a life or for reducing the chance of one’s brain being damaged for the rest of their life.

Williamson, Laura. “Biker Shifts His Opinion on Helmets.” The Atlanta

Journal and Constitution 7 Jan. 16.

Morain, Dan. “Assembly Panels OK Helmet and Balloting Bills That had

been Bottled up Under Democrats.” Los Angeles Times. January 16.

State Legislative Fact Sheet. http//www.nhtsa.dot.gov. January 000.

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