Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Motorcycle Helmets

The State House of Representatives voted today to repeal the requirement to wear a helmet while riding on a motorcycle. The vote was 66-37. It was previously approved by the Senate. It now goes to Governor Granholm, who is expected to veto it.

This issue ought to be a simple one for conservatives. If somebody wants to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, he should be able to. But then there's this from the article:

"The Michigan Association of Insurance Agents renewed its opposition Tuesday.

"This so-called freedom of choice issue ends when someone's perceived right not to wear a helmet negatively impacts insurance and medical costs for everyone," the group said."

All too often we hear the argument "well, if you do [unsafe thing] and get hurt, we'll have to pay for your health care." But we don't have to pay for anyone's health care. We choose to. And when I say "we choose to," I mean that the government chooses to spend our money whether we want them to or not.

Similarly, I don't see why insurance companies couldn't charge higher rates to people who don't wear helmets, if they want.

The health care argument is flawed in other ways, as well. It's certainly possible that someone who didn't wear a helmet could have higher health care costs. However, it's also possible that someone who would have required health care after wearing a helmet would die without one and not cost anything. Thus it isn't clear that costs would really increase.

Another argument that I have heard is that while a helmet may protect you more in the event of an accident, it may also make you more likely to have an accident. This is because it restricts your vision and can get hot inside. I don't know whether this is true, but it seems plausible enough.

Motorcycle riders should be able to weigh these risks for themselves. The lesson here is that if government starts out trying to fix your mistakes, it ends up telling you what to do.

3 comments:

Dan said...

I'm personally in favor of people being required to wear helmets. There's more to this issue than meets the eye. Let's say some soccer mom is driving her kids to soccer practice and gets into a wreck with a motorcyclist who wasn't wearing a helmet. The person on the bike dies because he wasn't wearing a helmet. Regardless of who's fault the accident was, the death of that rider will weigh upon the soccer mom for some time. I know it would me. And who knows about the kids riding along too.
Also, your suggestion to just raise insurance rates on those who ride without helmets would be uninforcable. I could say I wear a helmet. But that doesn't mean I do. How would the insurance company find out?
Finally my brother has a history of riding motorcycles. I've tried on his helmet and my view is not obstructed. But even if it did, I've been in cars where the B pillar obstructs my view more than the helmet could have. With the helmet I at least have the liberty to move my head (and therefore the blind spots)which I don't have in any car. Plus his helmet offers air vents to help create a breeze through the helmet much like having windows down on a car. So those arguements are pretty weak once you really look into the issue.

Really, I relate this issue to the seat belt law. It's one thing if someone wants to do something to risk their life. Like I'm perfectly fine if two constenting adults want to have a pistol duel in the middle of nowhere. But if that risk compromises my well being, then they shouldn't be allowed to(in the case of the seat belt, an unbuckled person can become a flying projectile in a wreck. In the case of the helmet, I don't want to run the higher risk of being involved in a fatal accident and have that on my conscience the next time I drive).

Matthew Moss said...

The slope can be very very slippery, Dan.

Anonymous said...

To add to Dan's comment, in the event of a motorcycle accident, at least keep the guy's brains in something rather than having them spattered all over the road...