As my wife and I have motored across Texas and into Louisiana for the past few days we have witnessed a number of motorcyclists behaving (in my view) dangerously on our public highways.
They whip across lanes, weaving at high speeds through traffic.
What’s more, most of them are bare-headed. They aren’t wearing helmets.
And . . . it makes me lament that Texas decided back in 1995 to toss aside its mandatory helmet law in favor of allowing motorcyclists to blast their way along our highways with exposed noggins.
I know this is a hopeless notion as long as Republicans control the Texas Legislature, but I am going to express my wish that legislators one day might find it within them to reintroduce the helmet law.
At this moment, only 19 of our 50 states require motorcyclists to wear helmets; 28 states — including Texas — require some motorcycle riders to wear the protective gear. Those riders are children. Only three states — Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire — have zero helmet requirements for motorcyclists and their passengers.
I might be overly pessimistic about the Texas Legislature’s potential for doing the right thing. The GOP-controlled Legislature did enact a law in 2017 that bans handheld cellphone use while driving motor vehicles. I still am amazed that the Legislature did pass such a law in 2011, only to have then-Gov. Rick Perry veto it, calling the law an infringement on personal liberty. It took a new Legislature and a new governor, Greg Abbott, to create that new law.
I wish the Legislature could find it within itself to do the same thing with motorcycle helmets. In 1995, when lawmakers dropped the law, they required licensed motorcyclists to be insured for at least $10,000. To which I said at the time “big . . . fu***** . . . deal.” Someone who suffers a traumatic head injury can burn through 10 grand before he or she even enters the ER.
I do know that helmets save lives. They also spare motorcyclists from debilitating head injuries that over time put a terrible strain on our state’s medical and social services.
While working as a journalist in the Golden Triangle in the early 1990s, an acquaintance from Orange County told me he hated the helmet law because he couldn’t “feel the wind” in his hair. I laughed in his face.
I know I’m spitting into the wind on this notion. That’s all right. I’ll keep spitting whenever the spirit moves me.