Whose Brain Is It In That Bucket?by Brad Warbiany
It looks like the nanny state is alive and well, with our federal government champing at the bit to make brain-buckets mandatory nationwide:
States should require motorcycle riders to wear proper helmets, government investigators urged as part of several recommendations that seek to stem a steady rise in motorcycle deaths.
Members of the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously approved the motorcycle safety recommendations, wading into a contentious issue that has pitted motorcycle rights’ groups against safety organizations in many states.
Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire have no helmet laws.
“The simple act of donning that helmet can begin the process of preventing that type of fatality and serious injury,” said NTSB chairman Mark V. Rosenker.
Are the number of motorcycle fatalities rising? Yes. Would many of those deaths be prevented by the use of helmets? Well, as someone who has endured two crashes, one where I watched dirt go by 3 inches away from my eye through the faceshield of a helmet, and another which was a violent 75-mph highside on the racetrack, I can definitely say that more widespread use of helmets would make crashes less likely to result in severe brain injury or death.
But that avoids a very serious question. Who’s head is it?
There is no more blatant example of the nanny state than helmet laws. Motorcycling is, by nature, a fairly dangerous activity. All the helmet laws in the world won’t change that, but the use of helmets would go a long way to improving the situation. But the question at issue is not whether it will result in fewer deaths, but rather whether individuals have the right to set their own risk tolerance, or whether it is government’s job to do it for them.
Motorcycling, for many reasons, tends to attract the sort of people who are against heavy government intervention. But they’re shooting themselves in the foot when they offer laughable arguments like the one below, rather than a principled argument to be treated like adults:
Motorcycle groups questioned the ability of helmets to provide complete protection and prevent internal injuries in a crash. They said more rider education programs are needed.
“If a truck pulls out in front of you and runs a stop sign, how is that helmet going to prevent an accident?” asked Steve Rector, state coordinator for ABATE Iowa, a motorcycle rights’ group. He also noted that motorcycle registrations and the number of miles traveled by motorcyclists have increased in recent years.
Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said there was “no scientific evidence that motorcycle rider training reduces crash risk and is an adequate substitute for an all-rider helmet law.”
Rider education? Yes, that helps, but there’s a bit of a saying that many of my fellow motorcyclists have: “Dress for the crash, not for the ride.” Yes, it would be nice to simply tell each other “Don’t crash”, but that often doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in theory.
But that doesn’t give the government a legitimate power to set individuals’ risk preferences for them. Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is stupid, regardless of how much “rider education” you have, but it is not the government’s job to stop you from being stupid. If that were the case, we’d have long ago stopped a lot of people from voting.