Helmet law a judgment call; matter of margins
Opponents of a bill to repeal most of Nebraska's motorcycle helmet law promised an 8-hour filibuster today in an effort to keep the law in place.
Medical and traffic-safety officials support the helmet law, saying the state already doesn't have enough services for patients with brain injuries, and the problem would only get worse if the 24-year-old law were repealed.
More head injuries would increase the drain on health insurance and Medicaid funds already taxed by Obamacare issues, they say.
The repeal would exempt riders older than 21 from wearing helmets, something sponsor Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins called an issue of freedom and personal choice.
"The Declaration of Independence says life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," he said. "Not conformity, control and a safe cocoon."
Helmet requirement opponents bring up economic issues of their own, arguing the motorcyclists on their way to the annual rally in Stugis, S.D., often bypass the state because of the requirement. We've heard stories of abandoned helmets lining the ditches as bikers leave the state for border states not requiring helmets -- and that includes all border states.
Plus, many motorcyclists contend helmets interfere with vision and hearing that can help them avoid collisions.
The bikersrights.com website cites studies that show that while helmets do reduce the severety of head injuries, they can increase neck injuries, and actually don't save that many lives. Helmeted riders who crashed often have less severe head injuries, but die of other injuries. And, even the best helmets are rated only to 13 mph.
Statistics can be skewed, they say, because cyclists who wear helmets are naturally more cautious, or, as some researchers feel, some helmeted riders take bigger risks because they believed they were protected by the headgear.
The fact is, motorcycle riding is dangerous, especially if, as with any vehicle, high speed, alcohol and inexperience are involved. And, even the most careful rider can be hurt or killed by inattentive drivers of cars or trucks.
The question of whether the state should require motorcyclists to wear helmets is, in the end, a matter of margins and a judgment call.