On February 4, 2020, over 300 people showed up at the Representatives Hall in Concord, New Hampshire, to speak up against proposed House Bill 1621-FN. That bill would make motorcycle helmets mandatory. The main argument? “Freedom” and “choice” according to the InDepthNH journalist that reported on the story. I have a question for you: should a toddler be allowed to roam free on a busy boulevard for the sake of freedom?
The rational answer most of us should have to this is no. Why? Let’s all say it together: because the kid’s safety is more important than his perception of freedom. He’ll probably throw a tantrum because he’s being held back and is kept from doing something he chooses to do, but as an adult, you know better. So you force him to hold your hand and to stay put because a tantrum is better than getting run over by a car.
Why can’t the lawmakers do the same with helmet laws? Why is perceived freedom more important than safety? Why are seatbelts and airbags mandatory in cars but we allow naked people to ride on motorcycles? Yes, I really mean entirely naked. Look it up, it’s a thing.
We want to legalize lane splitting and lane filtering to make the roads safer and we are quick to blame the “cagers” for our woes, yet, we’re not willing to take basic steps for our own safety. Something something safety starts with ourselves.
A helmet isn’t entirely foolproof. By that, I mean that whenever you head out on a motorcycle, there is nothing out there that will give you a 100-percent guarantee that you won’t get hurt or worse, die. That’s part of the reasonable risks we accept when riding a motorcycle. There is, however, an overwhelming amount of data that proves that certified helmets reduce the risks of head injuries. It won’t prevent you from breaking an arm but isn’t a broken arm better than a broken arm and a concussion?
It’s like texting and driving. People always think they can get away with it until something really bad happens and their example is used as a PSA about why texting and driving is bad. The number of “I wish he had worn a helmet” we read in articles pertaining to motorcycle crashes and deaths is alarming. Interestingly, nobody brings up freedom when someone gets severely injured in a motorcycle crash.
It’s all thoughts and prayers and crowdfunding campaigns to help pay for the medical bills. Oh yeah, because a crash isn’t only about a rider getting hurt. There’s a dramatic ripple effect that impacts the rider’s family. There can be loss of revenue—maybe even all the revenue if the significant other has to care for the injured—and there are hefty medical bills to pay for out of a pocket that already contains less money because, well, there’s a loss of revenue. Not only that, but a single rider’s freedom is also paid for by taxpayers’ money.
Rep. Jerry Knirk, one of the bill’s sponsors, used South Carolina as an example. “In South Carolina, they had a $10 million decrease to taxpayers when they passed a helmet law,” Knirk was quoted saying by the InDepthNH. “In New Hampshire, if everyone wore a helmet, (taxpayers) would save $3.6 million in direct costs.”
The InDepthNH reporter also interviewed Representatives against the bill and their quotes make me want to bleach my eyeballs and move to a deserted island. “People have gone to war to fight for freedom,” said former state Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett. “We don’t need a legislative body taking our rights away.” I mean, imposing a helmet law is right up there with all the basic human rights violations those who “went to war” fought against, I agree. I wonder if anyone in the trenches refused to wear his mandatory protective helmet to exercise their right to freedom.
“Helmets don’t save lives,” former state Sen. Bob Letourneau said, “education does.” Education as in “look at all the numbers proving that helmets actually reduce the risks of fatal head injuries which is the leading cause of motorcycle fatalities”? Just asking. It’s for a friend.
So many questions, not enough rational answers. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian and helmets are mandatory across the country and it just makes sense to me but I just can’t wrap my head around this concept of “Live free or die” (Trust me, it’s not just you -JM). I have to wear a helmet and I feel quite free and content. I also feel safe and I am actively reducing the risks of becoming a social burden if I get into a crash. It’s ok if you don’t agree and you choose to be angry with me. I’ll go have my feelings checked in the hospital for free.
Sources: InDepthNH, Ride-CT, IIHS, NHTSA, Insurance Information Institute, The Salt Lake Tribune, Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America