The Cost of Riding Free

Posted: May 10, 2007 by April Watkins in Child Safety, Current Events, Issues, Our Government, Politics
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The Tennessee state legislature has been debating the pros and cons on an issue that many may think is rather unimportant to our daily lives…mandatory helmet usage for motorcyclists.  The bill before the legislature proposes to repeal the current status of mandatory helmet usage.   


On one side of the argument are those who believe it is their right to “ride free” with no constraints from the government.  “Who are they to tell us what we can do?” they ask.  Their rationale is based on constitutional freedom tweaking.  Their logic, however, is apparently already shattered, prior to any “pumpkin-smashing” wreck which may befall them. 

On the other side are those of us who have experienced traumatic brain injury and its costs – physically, financially, and psychologically to the patient and their family.    The issue of traumatic brain injury is near and dear to my heart, as my youngest brother suffered a horrific work-related accident ten years ago this past week.  Until you experience how devastating brain injury can be, you cannot possibly understand the importance of issues such as mandatory helmet laws.   

The bill before the legislature would allow motorcyclists over the age of 21 the option of not wearing a helmet.  The caveat to this bill is that the driver would be required to hold an insurance policy which would provide at least $10,000 in medical coverage per wreck.  On first glance one may think that is a fair compromise.  However, looking at hard facts and figures, you can quickly see that $10,000 doesn’t even come close to covering the average costs associated with motorcycle accidents.    

In an interview with The Tennessean newspaper, authorities at Vanderbilt University Medical Center state the average cost for treating a motorcycle accident is $67,728.  Keep in mind that is an average amount, which means there are some cases which are much higher.  The hospital also reported that of the motorcycle accident victims treated at VUMC which were not wearing helmets, 19% were on TennCare and 45% were uninsured.   

Guess who picked up that tab?  You and me.   

Frankly, I cannot understand the opposition to helmet wearing…especially given the statistics on motorcycle accidents resulting in traumatic injuries and fatalities.  We have mandatory seatbelt laws and child restraint laws which have proven to mitigate injuries and save lives.  So, why should we allow our legislature to repeal safety laws for cyclists?  It doesn’t make sense.   

It is also important to note that driving is a privilege…not a right.  None of us have the right to drive a motor vehicle on public roads without being licensed and insured.   

Whether or not you ride a motorcycle, the outcome of this vote in our state legislature will affect each of us – through higher rates for health insurance, car/driver insurance, and possibly even higher taxes to cover uninsured drivers.  After all, if this repeal passes, you and I will pay the costs.  And that is…Why It Matters.

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