Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Motorcycle Helmet law debate Essay

Across the United States, every year millions of license drivers choose to ride motorcycles rather than drive automobiles for a variety of reasons; Reasons range from individual pleasure to a much more cost effective way to travel. The universal motorcycle helmet law debate over the past forty years has revolved around whether the federal government should adopt a universal helmet law that mandates all motorcyclists to wear helmets at all times when riding to reduce societies economic cost, or whether the individual rider should have the right to choose rather to wear or not wear a helmet. In 1967, nearly all States implemented a mandatory universal helmet law in order to receive federal funds to repair and improve our Interstate Highways. Once the 1966 National Highway Safety Act was imposed, the history of motorcycle helmet legislation began. Americans have continuously debated over the balance between an individual’s rights, the best interest of the public and when the government should take measures to protect the people of the United States from harm. Four out of five Americans are in support of a universal helmet law, yet motorcyclists represent only about two percent of all registered vehicles in the United States (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2008). This suggest that a majority of supporters are either not motorcycle owners and/or seemed to have taken a utilitarianism cost and benefits analysis approach, which according to Michael Sandel â€Å"many argue, that a weakness in utilitarianism is that it fails to respect individual rights. † Supporters believe that wearing a motorcycle helmet protects riders’ by preventing serious head injuries and lowers mortality rates, which results in society saving an immense deal of economic cost, such as taxes, insurance premiums and government funded healthcare expenses. Non-supporters, including myself a registered motorcycle owner, argue that a universal helmet law is unconstitutional, as it violates our right to â€Å"Freedom of Choice† as written in our Bill of Rights. Despite the tremendous amount of statistics, that claim motorcycle helmets may reduce head injuries and lower fatalities, as of now only twenty States and the District of Columbia currently have and enforce a universal motorcycle helmet law, twenty-seven States that do enforce partial motorcycle helmet laws that are directed at riders under a certain age (usually 18) and three States (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) still currently have no helmet laws in use (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2008). In order to have a better understanding of the ratiocination of the universal motorcycle helmet law, you have to know the history of the legislation of the universal motorcycle helmet law. The beginning of motorcycle helmet legislation in the United States was when the 1966 National Highway Safety Act was originally created to generate additional federal funding to States for our Interstate Highway System. However, in order for the States to receive funding, the federal government placed stipulations that influenced States to comply with safety laws that the federal government wanted to be in place. If the States did not comply, they would lose these funds (see Note: a, b, c, d and e in Figure 1, Homer, Jenny and French, Michael 416. ) Prior to 1966, only three States (New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan) had motorcycle helmet use laws, even though motorcycle helmet usage began as early the 1920’s by Motorcycle racers as a form of protection (Jones, Marian Moser, and Ronald Bayer 209). By 1967, after the federal standard for State Highway Safety Programs was implemented requiring States to have a universal motorcycle helmet law in effect in order to qualify for additional federal funds; All but three States (California, New Hampshire and Illinois) complied by implementing and enforcing a universal helmet law that required all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, so they would qualify to receive the additional Interstate Highway funding. Then, By 1975, 47 states and the District of Columbia had adopted universal helmet laws. This trend reversed dramatically in the latter half of 1975 when Congress acquiesced to the pressure exerted by groups such as ABATE, and amended the Act to remove the contingency of federal highway funds on universal helmet laws. The amendment led to the repeal of universal coverage in 27 states shortly thereafter (Derrick, Allison J. , and Lee D. Faucher 229). Between 1989 and 1994, Congress once again began to try and influence the States to mandate a universal motorcycle helmet law by implementing the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, also known as ISTEA. ISTEA provided special â€Å"incentive† grants to states with both universal motorcycle helmet laws and passenger vehicle safety belt use laws. A state qualified for a first-year grant by having these two laws in effect. In subsequent years, the state also was required to exceed minimum motorcycle helmet and safety belt use levels (helmet use of 75 percent in the second year and 85 percent in the third year). Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia received grants for one or more of the fiscal years 1992, 1993, and 1994 for which the grants were authorized (R. G. Ulmer and D.F. Preusser 5). The ISTEA Act was much more effect on the universal safety belt law rather than the universal helmet laws; States were more successful in implementing and convincing Americans to comply with safety seat belt laws rather than a universal motorcycle helmet law. I agree with Charles Umbenhauer of USA Today who believes â€Å"Unlike seat belts, helmets represent a separate purchase. Helmet laws, on the other hand, are a manifestation of society’s belief that its members lack the wisdom to make decisions about personal safety and must therefore be subjected to arbitrary laws. † Between 1995 and 2001, Congress implemented the National Highway System Designation Act. This Act repealed the ISTEA largely in response to lobbying by the educated and very organized motorcycle groups, such as American Motorcycle Association â€Å"AMA,† Motorcycle Riders Foundation, and American Bikers Aimed Toward Education â€Å"ABATE†. The lobbying of these groups resulted in five States (Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas) repealing their universal helmet requirements. According to the Congressional Record- Senate on June 20, 1995 that after very much debate over mandating a universal motorcycle helmet law, US Congress decided that States would be required to implement motorcycle rider education programs instead of a universal helmet law to receive funding. Congress acted in accordance to Aristotle belief that â€Å"Legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark, and it is this that a good constitution differs from a bad one† (Sandel, Michael 198). Of the current thirty States that allow adult riders to choose rather they prefer to wear helmets or not, three States require the rider must be 18 years or older; Five States require the rider must be 21 years or older; The remaining nineteen States have other stipulations that require riders to either complete motorcycle training courses, have a helmet in possession, but not required to wear the helmet and/or a minimum of $10,000. 00 of medical insurance that is specifically for injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2008). In November 2010, supporters led by safety groups and the insurance industry began to lobby that all States that currently do not have and/or enforce a universal motorcycle helmet law should implement a universal motorcycle helmet law; Aristotle would have most likely supported this act, as he stated â€Å"The purpose of politics is nothing less than to enable people to develop their distinctive human capacities and virtues—to deliberate about the common good, to acquire practical judgment, to share in self-government, to care for the fate of the community as a whole† (Sandel, Michael 194). While on the other hand, universal helmet law opponents like Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner that stated: It is the job of Congress to defend the freedom and individual responsibilities that motorcycle riders across the nation enjoy as they travel the open roads of America,† and â€Å"Mr. Strickland’s plan greatly concerns me as it is not the job of the federal government to create one-size- fits-all helmet laws. Mr. Strickland appears to be intent on pursuing all means possible to enact mandatory helmet laws either at the federal level or by violating the principles of the 10th Amendment and bullying the States into enacting mandatory helmet laws. Motorcyclists under the leadership of very organized motorcycle groups in the United States, since 1967 have continued to lobbying for repeal in the twenty States that currently have a universal helmet law. Most Americans agree there is a need to create laws that set limits and regulations in order to have a civilized society; However, motorcyclist believe this can be done without the government violating our individual â€Å"Freedom of Choice†, which allows a person to decide to take risks as long as they are only risking their own person and their property. According to libertarian theory of rights, Even if riding a motorcycle without a helmet is reckless, and even if helmet laws save lives and prevent devastating injuries, libertarians argue that such laws violate the rights of an individual to decide what risks to assume. As long as no third parties are harmed, and as long as motorcycle riders are responsible for their own medical bills, the state has no rights to dictate what risks they may take with their bodies and lives (Sandel, Michael 60). Despite the overwhelming evidence, some motorcyclists (including myself) refuse to wear helmets all the time when riding and oppose universal helmet laws because universal helmet laws represent government interference and these laws impede an individual’s â€Å"Freedom of Choice. † Most Americans would agree that wearing a motorcycle helmet is probably one of the safest pieces of protective outerwear when riding a motorcycle, but opponents of a universal helmet law, are disagreeing with the idea that the government should not mandate laws that take away an individual’s right to choose what to wear based on the Ninth Amendment: The Ninth Amendment [to the US Constitution] says no law shall be enacted that regulates the individual’s freedom to choose his personal actions and mode of dress so long as it does not in any way affect the life, liberty, and happiness of others. We are being forced to wear a particular type of apparel because we choose to ride motorcycles (Jones, Marian Moser, and Ronald Bayer 212). The United States Constitution is the foundation for the laws written in the United States. Our â€Å"founding fathers† created the constitution to establish a government for the people of the United States of America, but it does not grant you individual rights. The Bill of Rights was created to grant and protector your individual rights by limiting powers of government. A universal helmet law is an act of means ends paternalism based on Immanuel Kant’s distinction made between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. â€Å"Means-ends paternalism mirrors a hypothetical imperative, because it essentially takes the form of requiring people to do things that will lead to the satisfaction of their own goals. † States Legislatures have passed a universal motorcycle helmet law in the past and justified by claiming it would prevent people from exposure of serious head injury, which would cause financial and emotional harm to others, not just to the riders. Those who continue to support and lobby for a universal helmet law, make the claim that helmets are effective in reducing head injuries, which society bears the costs of non-helmet riders’ injuries, thereby establishing a public interest. By requiring the rider to use reasonable safety equipment, such as a motorcycle helmet, it prevents harm to others, not just to the motorcyclist. If the motorcyclist chooses not to wear a helmet, they may increase the risk that when an accident occurs, it could possible result in more severe injuries. The riders is guarantee government funded medical assistant under the United States Constitution, so the costs of those accidents will become a burden not only on the riders, but also on taxpayers, because not all riders have sufficient insurance or savings to pay for all of their medical expenses. According to John Stuart Mill, â€Å"subject to background duties of justice and fair contribution, state coercion is justified only to prevent or punish acts causing harms to other persons, not harms to self. Harm to others can be found in almost any type of behavior; indirect harm is subject to limitless expansion. Those who support apparently paternalistic policies identify superficial harms to others, such as financial burdens associated with risky behaviors. † Examples of this type of behavior would be the costs of emergency response and health care for injuries that could have possibility been prevented by wearing a motorcycle helmet. According to NHTSA Report to Congress regarding the Benefits of Safety Belts and Motorcycle Helmets society would be able to save cost by mandating a universal helmet law. An analysis of linked data from CODES with universal helmet laws showed that without the helmet law, the total extra inpatient charges due to brain injury would have almost doubled from $2,325,000 to $4,095,000; A number of studies have compared hospital costs for helmeted and un-helmeted motorcyclists involved in traffic crashes. These studies have revealed that un-helmeted riders involved in crashes are less likely to have insurance and more likely to have higher hospital costs than helmeted riders involved in similar crashes; Estimates that motorcycle helmet use saved $1. 3 billion in 2002 alone and an additional $853 million would have been saved if all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had worn helmets; Estimates that motorcycle helmet use saved $19. 5 billion in economic costs from 1984 through 2002 and an additional $14. 8 billion would have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets during the same period; CODES study also found that brain injury cases were more than twice as costly as non-brain injury cases for the one-year period studied. Among the un-helmeted motorcycle inpatients, charges for those suffering brain injuries were 2. 25 times higher than for those without brain injuries. Long-term costs were not included. (See EXHIBIT 13 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 1996). Both sides of the debate present strong arguments that support their reasoning’s regarding a universal motorcycle helmet law. Supporters of a Universal motorcycle helmet law continually argue that, a universal helmet law would save not only health care costs; it would in addition also lower taxes, insurance rates and save lives according to NHTSA’s reports. Meanwhile, those who oppose a universal motorcycle helmet law believe â€Å"Despite the strong evidence implicating repeal of helmet use laws as the cause of the large recent increases in fatally injured motorcyclists, the American Motorcyclist Association claimed that â€Å"after an examination of available current data on motorcycle accidents, fatalities, registration and licensure, in addition to such relevant topics as weather conditions, we find that the NHTSA [was] altogether premature in its judgment . . . â€Å"in faulting the widespread repeal of helmet use laws. ’ The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has also recently suggested that the NHTSA has selected information supporting helmet use laws and disregarded information to the contrary† (Watson, Geoffrey S. , Paul L. Zador, and Alan Wilks 580). NHTSA, the insurance industry, and motorcyclist groups use FARS and GES Auxiliary Datasets, which are one-to-one mappings of the Accident, Vehicle, and Person files. When conducting research you have the ability to analyze the data in either its full detail as coded or only the data you want to, it depends on the safety issue that is being questioned and the results that you which to obtain, which can led to biases results. By passing a universal motorcycle helmet law, the Federal Government is suggesting that the average adult motorcyclist does not have enough common sense to make their own choices, therefore they are required to mandate or should I say dictate proper behavior for a motorcyclist. The best solution is to educate both motorcyclist and automobile drivers through safety training that will help prevent motorcycle accidents, rather than mandating a universal motorcycle helmet law that only violates the rights of the motorcyclist right to choice or not to choice to wear a helmet. It is the history of motorcycle legislation debate that demonstrates to me, American motorcyclist have placed a value on their â€Å"Freedom of Choice† and have been successful over the past four decades communicating that they value their â€Å"Freedom of Choice† to the government; For that I am thankful. Motorcyclists in general, enjoy the sense of freedom that we associate with riding and by passing a universal motorcycle helmet law it would strip away that sensation from us. As, when I am riding a motorcycle without a helmet my senses come alive, that includes my sense of freedom! It is the power of the sun warming my skin, the touch of the cooling breeze across my face, the aroma of the salty ocean air or the giant redwoods, the sound of thunder roaring beneath me, which allows me to have the sense of flying freely. Works Cited Derrick, Allison J. , and Lee D.Faucher. â€Å"Motorcycle helmets and rider safety: A legislative crisis. † Journal of Public Health Policy 30. 2 (2009): 226-242. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 23 Oct. 2011 Homer, Jenny, and Michael French. â€Å"Motorcycle Helmet Laws in the United States from 1990 to 2005: Politics and Public Health. † American Journal of Public Health 99. 3 (2009): 415-423. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 12, Oct. 2011. Hope Gilbert, Neil Chaudhary, Mark Solomon, David Preusser, Linda Cosgrove, â€Å"Evaluation of the reinstatement of the helmet law in Louisiana,† DOT HS 810 956. Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (May 2008) Web 22, Oct. 2011, www. NHTSA. dot. gov. Houston, David J. , and Lilliard E. Richardson Jr. â€Å"Motorcycle Safety and the Repeal of Universal Helmet Laws. † American Journal of Public Health 97. 11 (2007): 2063-2069. Business Source Premier. EBSCO. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. Jones, Marian Moser, and Ronald Bayer. â€Å"Paternalism & Its Discontents. † American Journal of Public Health 97. 2 (2007): 208-217. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. Jim Sensenbrenner Representative. â€Å"Sensenbrenner introduces resolution to defend the rights of motorcycle riders. † FDCH Press Releases (n. d. ): Military & Government Collection. EBSCO. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. Sullum, Jacob. â€Å"Freedom Riders. † Reason 37. 6 (2005): 40. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 01 Oct. 2011. Charles C. , Umbenhauer. â€Å"It’s our right to decide. † USA Today n. d. : Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 01 Oct. 2011. R. G. Ulmer and D. F. Preusser. â€Å"Evaluation of the Repeal of Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Kentucky and Louisiana,† DOT HS 809 530 Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (October 2003) Web 12, Oct. 2011, www. NHTSA. dot. gov. Sandel, Michael. â€Å"Justice: What’s the Right Thing to do? † New York, Farrar, Straus, and Groux, 2009. United States Department of Transportation. National Health Traffic Safety. â€Å"Report to Congress: Benefits of Safety Belts and Motorcycle Helmets: DOT HS 808 347, Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (February 1996) Web 2, Oct. 2011, www. NHTSA. dot. gov. United States Department of Transportation. National Health Traffic Safety. â€Å"Traffic Safety Facts: DOT HS 810 887W, Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (January 2008) Web 12, Oct. 2011, www. NHTSA. dot. gov. Watson, Geoffrey S. , Paul L. Zador, and Alan Wilks. â€Å"The Repeal of Helmet Use Laws and Increased Motorcyclist Mortality In the United States, 1975-1978. † American Journal of Public Health 70. 6 (1980): 579. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.

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