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....was the headline in the AP story picked up in my local paper.  It continued on:

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Motorcycle fatalities involving riders without helmets have soared in the nearly six years since Gov. Jeb Bush repealed the state's mandatory helmet law, a newspaper reported. A Florida Today analysis found that "unhelmeted" deaths in Florida rose from 22 in 1998 and 1999, the years before the helmet law repeal, to 250 in 2004, the most recent year data is available.

Wow, this was just the article I would use to point out the dire effects of "getting government off our backs."

I would write an essay, dripping with irony, showing that not every law of the "nanny state" is meddling by "know it alls."  The gears were turning: I would propose a modification to the Florida law that mandated that those who chose to risk their lives by riding with no protection have abrogated any right to benefits derived from being a member of society.  If they were to be found unconscious at the scene of an accident, with no sign of wearing a helmet, you simply leave him there.  No emergency room paid for by taxpayers; and no life support if in a coma.

Then, being on a roll, I was going to go just a bit further.  If they were young, as most of these cyclers are, and hadn't even started to contribute to the tax rolls, why not recoup the government's investment in their education from their survivors.  All those years in high school and maybe even subsidized college were spent with the anticipation of some social payback from the recipients for the next generation.  If they chose to throw their lives away, they owe us.

But as I got into this article, there was a bit of a glitch. Here's what it said  

Total motorcycle deaths in the state have increased 67 percent, from 259 in 2000 to 432 in 2004, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics. Records also show that motorcycle registrations have increased 87 percent in Florida since Bush repealed the law July 1, 2000.

Any epidemiologists in the audience?   It looks like although there has been a major increase in unhelmeted deaths after repeal of the helmet wearing mandate,  based on the ratio of increased registrations to increased deaths, the overall motorcycle fatality rate is lower.  If vastly greater numbers of people are riding without helmets, even if a lower percentage of them are dying, in absolute numbers their deaths would, as the headline reads, "soar."

Could it be that this law, that is squarely in the spirit of the liberal ethos, happens to be harmful?  Could it be that the gain of peripheral vision from eliminating the helmet requirement actually lowered the death rate for cyclists? Without a lot more data I can't be sure; but the headlines of the original article in Forida Today, the A.P and my local conservative San Diego Union Tribune certainly distort the story.  

Is this a hit for Democrats?  No way!  Rather than sticking with a policy that turns out to be wrong, we want to learn from our mistakes and evaluate our predilections.  At times good intentions don't work out that way, and should be reconsidered.  That's why of all the subjects I could be spending my time on, I chose this one.  

Originally posted to ARODB on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 04:54 PM PDT.

Poll

Should Helmets be required

41%13 votes
9%3 votes
0%0 votes
12%4 votes
35%11 votes

| 31 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's (4+ / 0-)

    a reason emergency room doctors call motorcycles "donorcycles." I tell my friends with bikes to make sure their organ donor cards are uo to date.

    •  I traded in a perfectly wonderful (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shayera, Albatross

      little Mazda 323 a few years back because I felt like I was riding in a tin can compared to all the Ford Explosions tearing around on the highways.  The thought of being on a bike in todays traffic with todays vehicles turns me to jelly.

      •  One of the guys that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justrock

        works for me bought a bike last year. He also bought a convertible Mustang, I call them his midlife crisis toys. He drives through a lot of traffic here in L.A. I think he's insane. I have a feeling he does too. He still hasn't told his Grandmother (who raised him) that he bought the bike.
        I think he's actually a little afraid to ride it since Rothlisberrger's accident last week.

  •  This is going (3+ / 0-)
    to come off harsh.

    But good if they're not smart enough...

    Darwin wins out again.

    Quotes from others express a mental laziness in themselves.

    by rudgrl on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 05:04:40 PM PDT

  •  Need better data (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, tvb

    What's missing from that article is an accurate measure of the increase/decrease in deaths PER THOUSAND. Without a standard there's no argument either way.

    david.sf

    •  yep (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn

      I took the increase in registration as an admittidly rough proxy for increase in the cycle riding population, which would make the death rate lower.

      While there is insufficent evidence that absence of Helmets is safer, the headline is certainly misleading.

      Interesting, as it demonstrates a liberal bias, yet the San Diego paper here is anything but.

      Al

  •  I noticed this in the paper, too. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not an epidemiologist, but just casually, if registration has gone up 87%, it has less than doubled, while the motorcycle deaths have gone up over 11 times.

  •  The data (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albatross, means are the ends

    also needs to reflect the death ratio to riders wearing or not wearing helmets.  Just because the law is repealed that doesn't mean everyone stopped wearing them.  

    I work for a personal injury law firm and I'll tell you something-- I think the insurance lobby would rather have motorcyclists WITHOUT helmets.  They would rather you die on the spot than spend tens of thousands in hospital bills and pain and suffering awards.  You are worth much less if you are dead, and if you are dead and and too young to be a breadwinner, you are probably worth less than your motorcycle.

    •  Missing Data (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Albatross

      Good point about insurance companies.

      This is a serious subject, that I delt with somewhat lightly because there was really unsufficient data in the article.

      What is not calculated, which is the same problem for our military casualties in Iraq, is the long term cost, both in dollars and human suffering of brain injury. There are several angles.  Helmets, given the intensity of the impact, could save a life but leave someone so mentally disabled as to be hardly living.

      Yet, somebody will take public resources to maintain that life.

      •  Motorcycle injuries (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Albatross

        are often catastrophic.  In New York state we have no fault laws to cover injuries sustained in an auto accident, but no fault doesn't cover motorcycle injuries.  The carrier for the offending auto has to pay, and even then they won't pay until after they are sued.  In the meantime, the doctor and hospital bills go unpaid.  Many health insurance policies have a rider that excludes injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. The auto insurance company would much rather pay the death benefit than pay for shattered bones to be screwed back together, skin grafts, months of rehab and gazillions in pain and suffering claims.  If the rider gets his brains splashed across the roadway there is no need to fix whatever else is broken.

        I have not done any research into whether or not insurance companies support repeal of helmet laws, I only have experience in the way they handle claims, and on that note I have no problem making the above statement.

  •  I think riding a bike is extremely foolhardy (0+ / 0-)

    especially without protective gear, but I don't want to tell people how to live their lives, in the hope that they won't try to tell me how to live mine.

    Fat chance of that, I know, but you've got to keep a glimmer of hope alive.

    Scourge the rich, take their stuff and feed them to the manbearpig

    by redfish on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 05:37:31 PM PDT

  •  Whatever (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn

    I couldn't care less if more or less people die when they do or don't wear helmets.  It is a free country, which absolutely includes the freedom to be stupid.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 05:40:23 PM PDT

  •  Skull fracture vs brain injury (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arodb

    This is on a website put together by people who are against mandatory helmet laws, but the research seems legit:

    Whilst helmets may possibly reduce the incidence of scalp lacerations and other soft tissue injury, there is the risk that helmets may actually increase both the cerebral and non-cerebral injury rates. ... The addition of a helmet will increase both the size and mass of the head. This means blows that would have been glancing become more solid and thus transmit increased rotational forces to the brain and may increase diffuse brain injury.

    In conclusion, while it is readily accepted that bicycle helmets may reduce skull fracture and focal brain injuries, it remains highly questionable whether they can prevent serious brain injury, and there is a risk that they may actually cause increased brain injury.

    If this is true (that helmets may cause increased brain injury), then I guess it really depends what kind of accident happens more often: the kind where your skull impacts with something hard, or the kind where your brain gets whipped around. I really don't know. I was a little shocked when I read that article.

    •  The path (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Helen in MD

      to hell is paved with good intentions.

      Helen, Thanks for the first bit of substantive information that justifies my putting up this essay.

      The message is that Liberals must keep an open mind to the costs and benefits of any policy, and never simply assume that because you mean well, it will not have adverse consequences.

      Al (born in Baltimore MD)

    •  That report is crap (0+ / 0-)

      There may(?) be a higher risk of neck injuries for helmet wearers, but it's silly to think that there isn't much better brain protection. Professional motorcycle and car racers wear helmets and they're no fools.

      FWIW, I don't support helmet or seatbelt laws except for children. But you wouldn't catch me driving or riding without either, respectively.

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