Friday, May 05, 2006

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

In 1992, California joined many other states in mandating a Motorcycle Helmet Law. It became illegal to ride a motorcycle in the state without a helmet.

I lived in California during '92 and I remember when state legislators were pushing for such a law, and the backlash it created before it passed. The most vocal opponents, as you can imagine, were the bikers.

"I'll give up my bike when they pry my cold, dead hands off ... "

Oh, hold on, that was GUN laws. My mistake.

"I'll be darned if I let the state tell me I gotta wear a gosh-darned helmet," or variations thereof, was the cry of the day by these bikers, some of which sporting tattoos.

Opinions of a non-rider

I don't ride, and none of my friends ride. But one day I asked a colleague how he felt about pending legislation regarding motorcycle helmets.

"I don't care. I don't ride a motorcycle," he responded.

"But what about those who do? What is your opinion about their point of view?"

"If they want to kill themselves by refusing to wear a helmet, by all means that is their prerogative. Why should I think any differently? Why should I care if bikers haven't the sense to protect themselves?"

Case in point

So I told him this. Suppose you're cruising down the 101 Freeway in your sedan. You're talking on your cell, you got your tunes cranking, and you reach down to change the station. When you look up, you suddenly see traffic is coming to a standstill, and the last vehicle in line is a motorcycle.

You slam on the brakes, but it's too late, you clip the bike, sending it careening off the road. Rider and motorbike separate, and the poor fellow slides into the guard rail.

Make no mistake, the accident is your fault. No jury will be convinced that any blame can be placed on the biker - you slammed into him from behind. You will most likely be held liable for all consequences. You may be sued. You may even be charged with a crime.

Now here's where it gets interesting. If the biker was wearing a helmet, his injuries may not be life-threatening. If he wasn't, he may die. If he dies, the consequences of your actions will have a measurably different effect on you than if he lives - financially, legally, emotionally, maybe even spiritually. You have a vested interest in people you involve in an accident not dying.

"Still don't care if bikers in this state wear a helmet?" I asked my colleague.

He stood in silence.