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HENDERSON: On civility and donning the brain bucket

Tom Henderson
July 3, 2010
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LeCrone mugSome of the things I was warned as a young man that I should never get into arguments over were—in no particular order—religion, politics, which hand in a card game wins, and whether there should be a motorcycle-helmet law.

In Brown County lives a friend of mine who has to stay inside most of the winter. This is because his nose and part of his cheek are made of plastic, the result of a motorcycle accident in his early 20s. Eventually, after several surgeries, my friend lives for all seasons but winter— having cheated death itself. No, he wasn’t wearing a helmet. And now, his face freezes.

 My children used to grouse at me when seat-belt laws were put into place. The no-seat-belt fine wasn’t large, and I found seat belts rather confining. The fact that I was 60 pounds overweight at the time had nothing to do with it. One evening, I was driving near the intersection of 91st and Meridian streets. Right in front of me, a truck hit a car nearly head on. The air bags blew in the car. The truck driver was only bruised, as was his truck. The car, however, was mashed to bits. Two people in the car extracted themselves from their seat belts after several of us bystanders checked them for possible injuries. They literally walked away. From that moment, I wore my seat belt when driving.

As I drive the freeways, city streets and the hills of southern Indiana, I see dozens of motorcyclists cruising here and there. For about a half year, I’ve rejoined them after not having ridden since my firstborn was on her way, nearly 25 years ago. I was browbeaten, and properly so, into selling my Honda.

Back then, I wore my helmet once in a while, but really liked the insect-filtration capability of my somewhat long hair.

There is an organization called American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE) that advances the concept that Hoosier bikers and their passengers ought to be able to ride without helmets. The very governor of Indiana, a bike rider, is a fan of this organization, although the First Brain is protected by the First Brain Bucket—a helmet.

This summer, there’ll be a lot of bad news about Indiana bikers, and the number of head and brain injuries coming from accidents where biker or passenger didn’t wear a helmet. Some will point to Darwinian self-selection. Others will wag their social fingers at me, for believing that wearing a helmet ought to be the law in Indiana.

Another biker friend of mine, a programmer, wiped out on the FDR Drive in New York City. He was wearing a helmet, and he and his girlfriend died instantly. He was going at an outrageous speed and hit an oil slick, then tangled with a stationary light standard. He was an experienced rider and was obviously pushing it. The helmet didn’t help, it’s true. Darwinian selection comes in many forms.

 Ask an emergency-room doc about helmets. They have practical answers. You can see it in their eyes. Subconsciously, they also put their hands on their stomachs. We need to join many other states in mandating helmets. I hate legislating behavior, but what we do in this world greatly affects others.

The selfish, if invigorating, act of not wearing a helmet chimes in with the problem of secondhand smoke. At some point, the Legislature and the governor agree that with liberty comes the responsibility of civility. Otherwise, we devolve back to our tribal origins.• 

__________

Henderson is managing director of ExtremeLabs Inc., a Bloomington computer analysis firm.

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  • Children?
    @Mr. McCully

    A child is as a child does. You say that protecting children with helmets should be a law-bound obligation. If I asked why, then you would respond, "Well, it's because they don't make good decisions and require reinforcement". And their bad decisions don't generally effect society to as great a degree as an adults! So what happens when you make a bad decision on a public road? Wouldn't that mean that you would fall under the same criteria that we would use to legislate child auto safety? So where is the logic in excluding adults at all?
  • None
    Get over your self-righteous self.
  • owned by the state . . .
    Some of the things I was warned as a young man that I should never get into arguments over was â??whether there should be a motorcycle-helmet law.

    ------------ so why are you ? . . .


    My children used to grouse at me when seat-belt laws were put into place. The no-seat-belt fine wasnâ??t large, and I found seat belts rather confining. The fact that I was 60 pounds overweight at the time had nothing to do with it.

    ---------- #1 killer in america: alcohol . #2, too much food. good food . . .

    One evening, I was driving near the intersection of 91st and Meridian streets. Right in front of me, a truck hit a car nearly head on.

    ----------- twenty years ago ? one accident in twenty years ? . . .

    I see dozens of motorcyclists cruising here and there. For about a half year, Iâ??ve rejoined them after not having ridden since my firstborn was on her way, nearly 25 years ago. I was browbeaten, and properly so, into selling my Honda.

    --------- maybe you shouldn't have had kids . . .

    Back then, I wore my helmet once in a while, but really liked the insect-filtration capability of my somewhat long hair.

    ---------- ~ 50% of all bikers wear their helmets all the time - with no law . . .

    This summer, thereâ??ll be a lot of bad news about Indiana bikers, and the number of head and brain injuries coming from accidents where biker or passenger didnâ??t wear a helmet.

    ---------- cars/SUVs cause ten times the number of head injuries that motorcycles do . perhaps car/SUV drivers should be wearing helmets, eh ? . . .

    Others will wag their social fingers at me, for believing that wearing a helmet ought to be the law in Indiana.

    Another biker friend of mine, a programmer, wiped out ...

    ---------- but none of yer auto friends ? (see above - way above ! ) . . .

    The selfish, if invigorating, act of not wearing a helmet chimes in with the problem of secondhand smoke.

    ----------- the fatality rate in CA (prior to the helmet mandate ) was 3.2% . 3.2% of all accidents had a fatality . after the helmet mandate, the rate dropped to 2.9% . shouldn't it have dropped by 50% ? obtw, it's now back at 3.2% . . .

    At some point, the Legislature and the governor agree that with liberty comes the responsibility of civility. Otherwise, we devolve back to our tribal origins.â?¢

    ---------- at some point we are either free or we are subjects owned by the state .


    Big
  • On Legislating Safety
    As in second hand smoke, there are consequential actions for behavior that seems like a personal choice. Accidents can happen at any time, it's true. The statistical prevalence of financially straining head injuries is the reason that protection of motorcycle rider's heads is important. When does the government have a right? When your bad choice means costs for everyone, ranging from my higher insurance premiums, your employer's costs, your family's costs, the drain on hospitals because you could have been wearing a helmet, all add up. This isn't a "nanny state" question, it's you surrendering your macho so that you protect yourself. Your free will choices don't amount to suicide, or self-mutilation, or twenty bad years in a wheel chair because you snapped your neck, or drove your skull into your brain. Using the "well why don't we protect everything" is a really weak argument. The data shows that helmets save lives and reduce injuries in a BIG way. Safety is important, especially on a slick nasty curve doing 55.
  • We disagree
    The 'nanny state' is a ruse to excuse boorish, uncivil behavior. Lots of macho and "the rules don't apply to me" in that phrase.
  • helments, cell, sitbelts we dont need the government to controll that. Lets fight back and say No to wearing helments, sitbelts and talking on the cell when driving
    Nooo i dont need the government taking more liberty from me. Besides its all about the money anyway who are you keeding. It still should be up to the individuall to desided wether or not to use sitbelts or helmet. people like you is the reason the government is talking our freedom away. Because people like you are brainless and need the government to tell them what to do. Remember the saying the government was form for the people by the people not the other way around. If you took that energy and keep taps on our government we would not have all this trouble that our nation has. sitbelts and helments and cells are not the trouble here is the govenment that wants money.
  • I feel sorry for you.
    The thing that is too costly is having a nanny state. That is exactly what this country was formed to oppose. The rights of the state over the rights of the individual. I feel sorry for you.
  • Concern vs Civility
    You do need the state protecting you from you. Your behavior is, in the case of omitting a helmet, is irresponsible. Your head is like a watermelon looking for a hard spot to splat. Your free will is our insurance cost in the hospital, your employer's cost to replace you, the public safety cost of sending police and an ambulance.

    This is not all about you, this world we live in. At some point, we collectively say that certain behaviors, while only having a personal effect, also have too much of a toll on society and your fellow citizens. We pay your costs in insurance, public safety, and your family's future welfare, just because you want a breeze in your hair. Other states have done this begrudgingly, and I, too, don't especially like helmets, but the alternative is too gruesome and costly for me, you, and the people around us.
    • Legislating safety?
      Legislating safety is not a good Idea based on one simple premise: Where does your concern for my safety cross over into my rights to decide, as an adult,how and in what way I wish to live, and yes, risk, my life?. I will grant that the state has a concern in the protection of children, and legislation to protect those children is not only a good idea, but an obligation, so helmet laws, child seat and seat belt laws for those under the legal age of adulthood are not only understandable, but needed. However, I am not a child. I do not need the state protecting me from me. Surprisingly enough The sedate pastime of angling has one of the highest mortality rates of any sport due to the number of people who drown every year. These are not 'boating related' deaths, but people falling in the water from shore. Should we mandate lift vests for anyone walking within 10 feet of water? How about the leading cause of head injuries in the home, bath tub and show slip and falls? Large rubber protective suits required for bathing? I could go on. The question is when does the Government have the right to legislate my own free will choices? I don't ride motorcycles. I think anyone who does so on the streets has a screw lose. To many cars not paying any attention. Be that as it may, I do not want the state protecting me from me. If I don't stand up against this for those who should have the right to choose a helmet or not, who will stand up for me when the state tries to say it is their duty to decides how much salt I can put on my meal.

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