When personal choices impinge adversely on the public’s welfare, when does society have the right to pass a law to prevent that?
Of course, that’s an age-old question that even the ancient Greeks used to ponder a lot.
But it’s a question well worth pondering again when it comes to motorcyclists who choose not to wear helmets. One of our readers, Charity Hendricks of St. Joseph (formerly of Sartell), shared some alarming statistics with the Newsleader. Hendricks, who does lobbying work for the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, is very disappointed legislators decided to nix a proposed bill concerning brain injuries that result from motorcyclists not wearing helmets.
Legislation was introduced earlier this year, authored by Rep. Diane Loeffler and Sen. Mary Jo McGuire. It would do three things:
1. It would require all motorcyclists in Minnesota to carry no-fault insurance just like drivers of other motor vehicles.
2. Motorcylists who wish to ride without a helmet must purchase additional personal-injury insurance to cover the higher costs associated with their helmet-free decision.
3. Motorcyclists who choose to exercise their right not to wear a helmet must display clearly marked license plates for enforcement purposes.
“This is not a mandatory helmet law,” Loeffler said. “We are simply asking bikers to take responsibility and buy adequate coverage to protect themselves, their families and taxpayers. “Most motorcyclists are not aware they don’t have coverage that will meet their needs if there’s a devastating accident.”
Some motorcyclists and their families have been wiped out financially because of brain injuries often caused by the driver not wearing a helmet. Such tragedies also affect everyone else. A report written by a University of Minnesota Public Health graduate student, Elisabeth Seburg, revealed in the past 10 years there have been 17,569 motorcycle-crash injuries that included 2,877 traumatic brain injuries. Even though only 16 percent of total injuries were brain-injury related, those trauma injuries accounted for more than half of the hospital charges – a grand total of $266 million. The public, Seburg wrote, picked up 29 percent of those charges for a total cost to taxpayers of $40 million.
Many of these traumatic brain injuries could be prevented by wearing a helmet, sparing the victims, their families and taxpayers so much pain, loss and expense. Amending insurance policies to expand coverage could also help a great deal.
The Loeffler/McGuire bill is a reasonable one. We cannot imagine why any legislature, in good conscience, would oppose it.
We hope the bill is reconsidered in the next legislative session. In the meantime, tell legislators to seriously consider passing it.