Helmets here

March 17, 2013 

Here we go again. Motorcyclists who feel unduly constrained by North Carolina’s helmet law requiring headgear for all riders are again pushing to have the law nixed or adjusted to allow riders to go helmetless when they turn 18. The cyclists aren’t bad people, and they see this as an issue of freedom, of being able to do what they want to do as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.

OK, but it’s not much of a stretch to say that a motorcyclist who has a serious head injury is hurting others, beyond family members who will be devastated. The head of WakeMed’s trauma unit, a Raleigh surgeon named Dr. Pascal “Osi” Odekwu, said that it is generally accepted around the world that helmets save lives. He said that the initial bill for a patient with a brain injury can exceed $250,000 and that long-term consequences of a single patient who becomes dependent on society can exceed millions.

If lives are saved, and there’s strong evidence that they are, then lawmakers need to leave the law in place. The same “freedom” argument could be made about seat belts, but few people complain about them. They know that “freedom,” when it comes to safety equipment, can carry a heart-breaking price.

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