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Ponnada: Love the helmet

BY SRI PONNADA | OCTOBER 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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I love riding motorcycles. And having the wind blow through my hair? It is indescribably amazing — I feel free. But the price of this freedom seems to be, indeed, eternal vigilance.

Last year, a West High student died in a moped crash while riding without a helmet. In an effort to try to prevent many more such unfortunate events, Iowa City resident and retired UI dental expert Bill Olin has gathered forces to persuade policymakers to pass legislation requiring riders to wear helmets, as reported by the Press Citizen.

Forget the freedom. I’d rather everyone be safe and alive than dangerous and dead.

In the United States, 19 states have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states, and there are three states in which there is no helmet law at all — Illinois, New Hampshire, and, yes, Iowa.

Iowa Department of Transportation data show there have been 48 motorcycle crashes and 50 fatalities so far this year — and these data do not include drivers or passengers of other vehicles or pedestrians killed. Also, in 37 of those cases, it was clear that there was no helmet use. What a shocker.

When people as young as 14 can get a permit to operate a moped in Iowa, it is absolutely ridiculous that there are no laws in place to protect them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent, and the organization suggested in a motorcycle-safety report card to the state that Iowa should consider enacting a universal helmet law.

Some legislators and locals such as members of ABATE of Iowa, a motorcycle interest group, oppose the proposal of helmet laws. The members insist that this is another way in which the government infringes in citizens’ private lives.

But that’s like saying people in cars shouldn’t wear seat belts or pedestrians shouldn’t walk in crosswalks.

This is just unarguably one of those cases in which something has to be done in the interest of protecting the lives of citizens. By not wearing helmets, motorcyclists are not only endangering their own lives but also the lives of others — to which they have no right.

Some of the freedom has to go. Before you rev up your bike, pick up a helmet and strap it on.


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