Sunday, July 3, 2011

Flowers or Helmets

Even in the face of what appears to be clear and present danger, sometimes human behavior is inexplicable. For example, take a look at motorcycle helmets. Flashy and expressive sometimes, dull and boring other times, these head pots surely cut down the thrill of having that road air do a rider's hair and scalp. Freedom restrictors at the least, and at worst of no real value, helmets are. Falling off of a motorcycle is always a skip with death, but isn't that the thrill of the bike. Defying death...

The arguments that the mortality and the head injuries with or without a helmet are compelling reasons to skip helmets entirely. Moreover, helmets reduce both rider hearing and visual acuity. Lastly, the weight of the helmet itself and the actual lab testing of the usefulness of these head devices present additional problematic issues.* On the other hand, others posit helmets do indeed save lives, reduce accident morbidity and decrease associated health care costs.**

So, in New York State, on July 2, Patrick Contos flipped over his handlebars and he died as a result of sustained injuries. He was on a ride, not wearing a helmet, to protest helmet laws! According to officers at the Onondaga scene, the 55 year old Contos of Parish, NY would have survived, if he had been helmeted. The protest was a fail!!!

Predictable, yet sad, there is a clear and present danger associated with motorcycles. While riders die every day, the risks are taken on with glee. As a society, these deaths are accepted with hardly a shiver. And so...

Among the 50 states, only 4 are entirely helmet free
  1. Colorado
  2. Illinois
  3. Iowa
  4. New Hampshire

Of the remaining states
  • 20 plus the District have full helmet laws
  • 19 helmet exempt for riders over 18 years of age
  • 7 discriminate helmet exemption between riders aged 18-20
New York is a full helmet state and likely will remain that way. Contos rule? Did Mr. Contos' attempt at making a point actually prove the opposite? Irony can be painful.

Intuitively it seems that helmets would be of value in a motorcycle mishap with head trauma. Perhaps that rubric is simply wrong. However... intuition is often right. Dead right! Well...

  • If mandatory helmet wearing is considered an affront to freedom, then, Live Free or Die is apropos
  • Is there any freedom or self determination relationship between auto seat belts and motorcycle helmet wear?
  • Does a society have an obligation to pay for the eventuated risk taking of its members?
  • How much is the USA transplant program benefited by motorcycle fatalities? Is this a counter-balancer?

The motorcycle helmet debate will not end anytime soon. In all fairness, how could it? America is a tortured country, what with all of the perils it faces. Tobacco, alcohol, drugs (legal and illegal), fatty diets, excessive caloric intakes, sun exposure, chemical pollution, unemployment, a divided red and blue idiocracy, no ozone, latex allergies, terrorism, etc.... Who gives a fig about motorcycle helmets? Wear one or not, it's up to the risk taker... Eh? Flowers or helmets, nah, too simple.

E cosi va

Flowers from a garden in Margate, NJ

*.... Another requirement of FMVSS-218 (S5.4) is that a helmet provides no less than 105 degrees peripheral vision. A drivers license test requires 140 degrees peripheral vision, and a motorcyclist with only 105 degrees peripheral vision is considered to be legally blind Also, when wearing a helmet, the acute decrease in hearing would prevent a person from receiving a drivers license. Therefore, according to DMV regulations, when wearing a helmet a motorcyclist is legally deaf & blind!

Helmet's are not a safety device for motorcyclist's, and mandatory helmet laws are nothing more than a mandatory dress code with the ability to cause injury and death. But a helmet will protect a headform in a laboratory (up to 13.66 mph), unfortunately, headforms do not ride motorcycles.
** NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,158 motorcyclists in 2003. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 640 lives could have been saved.

The average hospital charge for motorcyclists with serious head injuries was found to be almost three times that of motorcyclists with mild or no head injuries, $43,214 v. $15,528. (Orsay, et al., 1994)

In 1997, Arkansas and Texas repealed all-rider helmet laws. As of May 1998, helmet use fell from 97% in both states to 52% in Arkansas and 66% in Texas. Motorcycle operator fatalities increased by 21% in Arkansas and 31% in Texas. (NHTSA, 2000)

By an overwhelming majority (80%), Americans favor state laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets. (Lou Harris, for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, 2004)

An estimated $13.2 billion was saved from 1984 through 1999 because of motorcycle helmet use. An additional $11.1 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. (NHTSA, 2000)

Analysis of linked data from the Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) in three states with all-rider helmet laws showed that without the law, the total extra patient charges due to brain injury would have been almost doubled from $2.3 million to $4 million.

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