The irony couldn’t have been more obvious, or cruel: A man riding his motorcycle without a helmet, to protest New York’s mandatory helmet law, died from a head injury Saturday when he reportedly tried stopping and flew over the bike’s handlebars. Troopers at the scene say a helmet would have saved his life.
Helmets not only save the lives of motorcyclists, but bicyclists as well, which is why the state law mandating them for motorcyclists should not be repealed and the one for bicyclists should be strengthened and better enforced.
Helmets don’t just save lives, they prevent the kinds of injuries that leave their victims disabled — often for the rest of their lives. Each year, these disabilities rob tens of thousands of Americans of productive lifestyles, and commit them to long and expensive rehabilitations. And when the people can’t afford the bills, the state gets stuck with them — so the public definitely has an interest in preventing such injuries.
Keeping the state’s motorcycle helmet law is a no-brainer, but New York should also consider toughening its bicycle helmet law, which currently applies only to kids under 14 and is rarely enforced. Using positive reinforcement — like giving free ice cream cones to those who wear helmets, as a story in last Wednesday’s Gazette detailed — is one way to encourage compliance. But police should also use the stick approach — a real ticket and a $50 fine on parents — once in awhile.
And the state should consider extending the law to all bicyclists, not just children. Were that to happen, there would fewer “ghost bicycles” — the subject of a story in Sunday’s Gazette — haunting the region, and far fewer debilitating head injuries.