“Nanny State” or Protecting People?

Nichol is on vacation this week, so I thought I’d toss out a conversation piece.

I just read this article about a town in Washington that got rid of its bicycle helmet law due to financial considerations. I came across it via Facebook; a page I like posted it. After I read the article, I read through some of the 75 comments.

People argued both sides of the helmet debate (for or against laws, with some really interesting perspectives on both sides), but everyone agreed: it’s just plain stupid not to wear a helmet when you bike.

Some people cried “nanny state!” Another posted a link with this summary: 91% of cyclists killed in accidents in 2009 were not wearing a helmet.

Seat belt laws were brought up: why not require helmets for safety if seat belts are required for safety? (And the other side: “I don’t think seat belts should be required, either.”)

I don’t know the helmet laws here in sunny Arizona, but I never bike without one. I do know there are no helmet laws for motorcyclists, so I assume there aren’t any for bicyclists, either. (It is disturbing to see people on motorcycles on the freeway with NO protective clothing on: shorts, T-shirt, sandals, no helmet.) I was in a biking accident a while back. (Look before you turn, people!) The pavement and my helmet mingled better than the pavement and my head would have.

What’s your opinion? Are helmet laws helping to keep people alive, or are they just another tentacle of “the nanny state”?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shawn on 20 June 2012 at 11:59

    Here’s the thing. If you have a catastrophic accident on your bike, you’re going to go to the hospital. Maybe you have health insurance, maybe you don’t. Either way, you’re going to get extensive treatment. If you’re unlucky, you’ll end up as a vegetable and need extensive treatment for years to come.

    So who’s paying for that treatment? You? Of course not. With a major accident like that, your medical costs are going to far outstrip your insurance premiums. If you’re lucky, your insurance covers it, but that money comes from the pool of the company’s other covered clients. If you’re unlucky, it won’t – but the hospital will still treat you. They’ll probably never get that money back from you, so that loss gets built into the prices they charge insured patients (if they don’t want to go out of business).

    EIther way, insurance companies end up paying for your treatment, and since insurance companies want to make money, not lose money, they raise our rates high enough to cover events like this.

    People who want to ride without helmets/seatbelts/etc. are asking the wrong question. They shouldn’t ask “Shouldn’t I have the freedom to choose whether to protect myself?”, they should ask “Should the rest of you have to pay the bills that result from my own stupidity?” Me, personally, I’m fine with compelling people to take reasonable safety precautions while simultaneously paying less for medical care. Win-win.

  2. Posted by Melanie on 20 June 2012 at 12:55

    I am not a fan of being told what to do. However, I believe laws were established to protect people for hurting themselves. I think if you are an adult and don’t want to wear your seatbelt or helmet, go for it, but don’t sue someone if you have serious injuries because of it. For children, it gets stickier. I don’t want anyone telling me how to parent as I do the best job I can. No one loves my children more than I do. That said, there are people out there who hurt their children and the idea would be to have laws in place to protect them. I guess it comes down to… If you want to hurt yourself, go ahead dumbass. When it comes to hurting someone else, that is where it counts. This is a tough area, there are really so many different possibilities and I can understand many of them.

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