Helmet law a judgment call; matter of margins

Friday, February 7, 2014

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have enough services for patients with brain injuries, and the problem would only get worse if the 24-year-old law were repealed.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.

Should Nebraska's motorcycle helmet law be repealed, to allow riders over 21 to go without helmets?

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  • This seems to be a simple matter of self-responsibility. I have ridden for over 40 years (started on a mini bike at age 5) I have owned and ridden off road, cruiser style, sport, 4 wheelers, 3 wheelers, and put on a great number of miles on and off road. Before there was a helmet law I would always use a SNELL rated full face helmet on road. (SNELL is a higher protection level than the DOT rated helmets) The reason that I have worn and do wear a helmet is because I believe that is the safe thing for me to do. Saying that I believe that it is each person's freedom to wear a helmet or not. Just because I choose to wear one does not mean that it should be mandatory! I am not content living in a state that tells me what is or is not safe for me. I have seen a lot of riders that insist on riding as close to the white line on the road as possible. This would seem safer in that you are farther away from oncoming traffic. In reality it is more dangerous as the people who pass you rarely get completely into the passing lane and gives you a poorer sight line on what may enter the road (dogs, children, cars) from the sides. You should ride in the same position that you would be in if you were driving a car. This demands from the other drivers that you be given your whole share of lane and gives you extra time to react to whatever may enter your lane from the side. Yet there is no law that says that you should ride in the left hand side of your travel lane, even though this is a potentially more risky behavior than not wearing a helmet.

    -- Posted by quick13 on Sat, Feb 8, 2014, at 3:06 PM
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