The Helmet Fray

Remember when drivers abandoned their vehicles in masses after the mandatory seatbelt law was passed? You could travel down any street and notice cars collecting dust on driveways, and ostensibly in garages. Parking lot attendants were unsure of what action to take in regard to the multitude of abandoned vehicles on the many asphalt expanses downtown. You could drive from the Valley to Downtown in fifteen minutes. People simply stopped driving because they were suddenly required to wear a seatbelt. You don't remember? Hmmm. Come to think about it, I don't recall any of those scenarios either.

Remember when the mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists took effect? Harley's and Indian's were soon after sold for scrap. Every two-bit artist in the country bought up the, now worthless, bikes and transformed them into metal sculptures of dinosaurs and robots and, things. Yamaha's and Huskvarna's were left to rust and decay on far-flung desert dunes. All those ex-riders filled buses, the leather jacket-clad wearers with streaming beards, sitting incongruously next to ninety-year old grandmothers on their way to pick up Social Security checks. 

Oh wait, that didn't happen either.

However much I may disagree on legislating safety, rather than leaving such matters up to personal responsibility, I see only one outcome to the drive for mandatory helmet use. It is the way politics work in this nation - if the masses don't agree with your legislation one year, just try again next year, for however many years it takes. Little by little, convert by convert, as long as the politician is dedicated to the cause, and refuses to give up the fight, unless she can be convinced of her misguided thinking, she will eventually get her way. 

Look, the men and women who race bicycles either professionally, or for little more than weekend glory, did not give up the sport when, first the USCF and later the UCI, mandated helmet use during sanctioned competitive events. Neither did recreational riders give up on those large charity and fun rides that proclaim "helmets are mandatory". Bicyclists ride, largely, for one of two reasons - it is pleasurable or it is necessary. Neither of those will change if it becomes a requirement to strap a bit of styrofoam, plastic and kevlar to the top of ones head.

Of course none of this negates the fact that law enforcement efforts would be better directed toward eradicating dangerous driving which, after all, is more a threat to the riding public, whether that public wears a helmet or not. 

Look, I have said it before and I will probably say it again, with my wealth of head-banging experience, I will never comprehend the reasons someone might choose to not wear a helmet. Honestly though, I am not sure where I stand on the politics of this one; I waver from one side of the argument to the other. You know, there is a large segment of John Q. Public who do not possess the sense to put their pants on straight in the morning. Just look at the age old issue of cigarettes; how many decades has it been since the Surgeon General came out with his warning, yet people continue to smoke the dumb things. Not only that, but they would still be doing so around you and me if some few politicians had not decided to make it illegal to light up in public places. Sometimes, maybe, it becomes necessary to save people from themselves.

A mandatory helmet law would not affect me in the least, but I would hate to see one passed based upon faulty, misguided reasoning, such as expecting it to save me when (knock on wood) the jerk looking at his cell phone rather than the road plows into me. If the local state senator is looking for some meaningful ways to make our journeys safer, I have a few suggestions, and I suspect anyone who rides does likewise. Coincidentally, none of the suggestions involve forcing someone to wear a helmet.

I'm so confused.