Did my headline get everyone’s attention? I think people who advocate helmet laws don’t follow their arguments to their logical conclusions, because that headline is exactly where that line of reasoning leads. People should realize that most arguments in favor of helmet laws work just as well when used as arguments against riding a motorcycle at all.
The latest silly argument in support of helmet laws is this study published in PubMed
(via Old Guy):
Mathematical extrapolation derived a charge of 12,353 dollars per unhelmeted and 8,735 dollars per helmeted motorcyclist for every crash with a difference of 3,618 dollars between helmeted and unhelmeted riders involved in a motorcycle crash.
…thus supposedly proving that unhelmeted riders are imposing a healthcare economic burden on everyone else. What the study doesn’t mention is how much less of a burden is put on the system by those who drive cars, so anyone who rides a motorcycle, even with a helmet, is guilty of the same healthcare freeriding. But wait, what about those who ride public transportation? Maybe anyone in a private car is putting an undue burden on the system! You end up at the ludicrous conclusion that anyone who doesn’t work from home is irresponsibly putting an unfair burden on the healthcare system.
Healthcare costs should never be used as a justification for taking away freedom. This idea of a healthcare burden was successfully used as an argument against tobacco, it is used as a justification for regulating fast food and sugary soft drinks, and now they’re turning it on bikers as well, but the argument fundamentally undermines human freedom. If we keep going down the road of using increased risk of healthcare costs to justify restricting people’s activities, eventually we end up banning contact sports, fried foods, and staying up too late typing rants on the Internet.
Riding a motorcycle is inherently less safe than other types of transportation, but many of us think the benefits outweigh the risks. All of us live our lives trying to balance the various conflicting values of comfort vs. safety vs. money vs. excitement, etc., and many of our decisions seem irrational to those who choose a different balance. (Ever try to rationally justify the money and time we spend on our bikes to someone who doesn’t get it?) But no one can make the final decision about what’s most important in our lives better than we ourselves.
That calculation of values should be made by each individual, not by the bottom line on some insurance company’s spreadsheet. Let those who ride decide.