The motorcycle helmet situation is not quite so simple as suggested in a recent editorial. Yes, most of us would prefer that motorcyclists always protect their heads with helmets, just as most of us would like everyone to stop smoking.
But it does not follow that we'd like big daddy government to protect us from ourselves by outlawing smoking or requiring motorcyclists' helmets. In a free society, as we like to think we are, each of us should have the autonomy to live our lives as we like. Skydiving, motorcycle riding and many other activities are dangerous, but they are personal choices and should remain so. Blaming legislators for motorcyclists not wearing helmets, as the editorial suggested, is analogous to blaming legislators for smoking-related deaths.
Then too, the editorial equates motorcycle deaths with costs to us all. It is not unreasonable to suggest that, while it can be shown that helmets reduce deaths, it does not necessarily follow that helmets reduce overall costs. A motorcycle death, though tragic, usually results in a one-time cost to the family, while severe injuries can be a longtime cost to society, a far greater cost than an instant death. It would be interesting to see a study on the correlation between overall costs as related to deaths, long-term injuries and helmets. The result may well surprise us, including the simplistic editorial writers.
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