I have received several comments in response to my blog post, High Price of Gasoline Results in More Motorcycle Fatalities some off the blog and one on. As I was writing a response, I thought it may make a good stand alone article. The comment to the original post is below, followed by my response. By the way, we ALWAYS welcome your responses – we may not always agree with you on any given issue, but we try very hard to explain our position.
Dave – I disagree with the example you have cited (head injuries are not a significant cause of motor vehicle fatalities) but understand your point. The line between the right of the state to interfere in people’s lives and the right of individuals to make their own decisions has always been grey. In order for the state to interfere, it must demonstrate a compelling interest. Let me try to explain why the state has a compelling interest in mandating the use of helmets on motorcycles
It is undisputed that motorcycle helmets save lives. Individuals who fail to wear them are at much greater risk of suffering serious injuries or death. When a motorcyclist who does not wear a helmet sustains a very serious injury, who bears the cost? Not the rider’s motorcycle insurance, as there is no “no fault “insurance for motorcycles, at least in NY and Pennsylvania. So does only the rider who chose not to wear a helmet bear the expense? Hardly! That cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills is spread out to other policy holders of the rider’s private health insurance company, if in fact there is insurance. If not, the taxpayers pick up the tab courtesy of medicaid. When that rider suffers a traumatic brain injury and can never work again, who bears the cost of them going on welfare and receiving Social Security Disability for the rest of their life? The taxpayers.
Now lets say the motorcyclist dies in the wreck. Who bears the added expense of their children receiving SSD because of that death, who bears the expense if the rider’s family has to go on welfare because of the loss of income? Once again, it is the taxpayers on the hook.
It is this significant financial stake, in conjunction with the inarguable fact that helmets reduce the risk of death and serious injuries, that gives the state the right to interfere in your decision making process, much the way they have done with the use of seatbelts. You can thank your significant lobbying efforts for the fact that helmet use has not been tied to highway funds the way seatbelts were, or we would not be having this discussion.
I want to conclude this response by saying that in my experience it is rarely the motorcyclist who is at fault for any multi-vehicle collision in which they are involved. For whatever reason, there is a portion of the motoring public who fails to take notice of motorcycles. That is a reality that every biker must struggle with when making their decision on whether they will wear a helmet.
Thanks for reading,
Adam M. Gee, Esq.
New York and Pennsylvania Personal Injury and Malpractice Attorney
Ziff, Weiermiller, Hayden & Mustico, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901