Tag Archives: helmet law

Still wondering: Why not mandatory helmet law?

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.

Are helmet laws a ‘nanny state’ rule? No!

Whenever I mention the subject of requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, I often get a response that refers to the “nanny state.”

I brought the subject up a message the other day in which I wondered whether the Texas Legislature could reconsider its decision to rescind the requirement back in 1995.

I’m going to stand by my view that the Legislature ought to rethink that decision, which I said at the time was ill-considered — and which I still believe it to be today.

Let’s explore the “nanny state” canard.

If the state is seeking to impose intrusive rules on motorists, rules that violate a certain “choice” factor, then why does government impose speed limits? Why does the state make it illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol? And here’s my favorite: Why does the state require drivers — and passengers — to wear safety restraints in a moving vehicle?

You see, requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets is no more intrusive and invasive than any of those other rules.

Let’s understand that the state already mandates headgear for minors riding on motorcycles. Indeed, any parent who would operate a “crotch rocket” with one of his or her helmetless children on board should be arrested and thrown in the slammer … for a long time!

I once got into an argument with someone in the Golden Triangle who tried to talk me out of a column I wrote about helmet laws; and this was before the Legislature decided to rescind the statewide requirement.

This clown, whose name escapes me at the moment, actually argued that he shouldn’t have to wear a helmet because he wanted “to feel the wind blow through my hair.” I damn near flipped!

I have argued that motorcyclists who refuse to wear head protection cost us all a lot of money when they are debilitated by the injuries they suffer. Helmets can prevent such grievous injury.

And you may spare me the notion that the $10,000 insurance policy suffices as protection. Why? Because a patient can eat up that 10 grand policy the moment he or she checks into an acute-care hospital.

Am I pushing a “nanny state” agenda? Not in the least.

I merely am wishing for sanity to return to our Legislature. I’m realistic enough to understand that it likely won’t happen.

***

Here is an item I posted eight years ago, just to remind you that I am steadfast in my opposition to this notion of “individual liberty.”

We all pay for helmet-less riders