WHAT OTHERS SAY: Illogical proposal reappears to ease helmet restrictions

Monday, March 26, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Proposed legislation to ease helmet requirements for Missouri motorcyclists is being considered again this year by state lawmakers.

The concept remains a bad idea, and this particular variation is way off the mark.

The bill would require helmets for people younger than 21, but exempt older riders.

Did anyone bother to read the motorcycle statistics in the 2011 edition of Missouri Traffic Crashes compiled by the Department of Public Safety?

The data shows that among the 84 motorcycle operators who died in 2010, three were under age 21.

In the 21-25 age range, 12 fatalities were recorded; the greatest number of fatalities, 14, occurred in the 51-55 age range.

The illogical continuation of restrictions on the under-21 crowd is akin to the inane texting while driving ban that applies only to motorists younger than 21 — the group probably most adept at multi-tasking.

Young or old, operating or riding on a motorcycle without a helmet is dangerous.

During 2010 in Missouri, 93 motorcycle operators and passengers were killed and 1,916 were injured in a total of 2,304 crashes.

What we don’t know is how many severe or disabling head injuries were prevented by the state-of-the-art helmets available today.

During discussion of the proposal, one senator, also a physician, raised the health concern by offering an amendment that riders without helmets who suffer injuries would be ineligible for Medicaid.

The amendment, not surprisingly, was defeated.

As a practical matter, motorcyclists injured in crashes are not going to be turned away at emergency rooms.

And we — a state of compassionate people — are not likely to slam the door on head injury victims in need of continuing care at state facilities.

The consequence of lifting helmet restrictions is increased severity of head injuries. Those individual tragedies affect not only the victims, their families and friends, they also drive up both governmental and health care costs for everyone.

We encourage lawmakers to bid “good riddance” to this bad idea.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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