There are two things I learned as a newspaper reporter:
1. Being a newspaper reporter makes you poor.
2. Motorcycles are God’s way of ridding the herd of some of its idiots.
From the beginning of April through the middle of November, hardly a week would go by when the newsroom wasn’t mobilized to cover the “tragic” death of some 21-year-old who lost control of his beloved Kawasaki and shish kabobed himself on a low-hanging tree branch. His mom would say he was a good kid with a lot of big plans. His buddy Murph would say he died doing what he loved.
It wasn’t always the rider’s fault, of course. Often he was run off the road by a careless or drunk driver. The shame is that the accidents would typically have resulted in a fender bender and a stiff neck if both drivers were in cars.
It seems to me that if you’re going to ride a machine that imperils your life just by hopping on, you should at least try your best to protect yourself. Obviously wearing bubble suits is out of the question, but helmets should be a no-brainer (zing!).
And if you’re too stupid to wear one of your own volition, maybe it’s in the community’s best interest to force you. That’s a lesson people in Pennsylvania are starting to learn the hard way.
The state repealed it’s helmet law in 2003, and since then has seen a dramatic rise in brain pan demolition:
The researchers compared accident statistics from the two years before repeal with numbers from the two years after. After repeal, helmet use among riders in crashes decreased to 58 percent from 82 percent. At the same time, head injury deaths increased 66 percent and head injury hospitalizations increased 78 percent.
The rate of motorcycle riders in crashes has not risen in that time, meaning motorcycle driver behavior has remained largely the same. The only thing that’s changed, it seems, is the total volume of brain matter state police are scooping off the asphalt. Did I mention that the head injuries are taxing the health care system unnecessarily?
Meanwhile, total acute-care hospital charges for motorcycle-related head injuries increased 132 percent in the latter period, compared with a 69 percent increase in other injury costs. The study was published in The American Journal of Public Health.