8 Ball In The Wind

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Unequal Rights

I know that the government claims to want to protect us all from ourselves.  They think they know better than the rest of us, about how we should take care of our own individual selves.  But quoting statistics about how much safer we would be if we were mandated to wear helmets while riding a motorcycle or bicycle really twists the truth.  I mean really now, are those the only way people can get head injuries?  There are statistically much riskier things that we do everyday, but the idea of being mandated to wear a helmet while doing them is considered laughable, ridiculous in the extreme.

Think about what I am about to say for a moment, and try to follow along with what I describe, you might see my point before long.  Let's say, for purposes of argument, that I am not typing this but I am actually riding my Harley.  I'm riding Gypsy from, Oh let's say Forks all the way across the state to Walla Walla.  Because I am in Washington, I am mandated to wear my helmet.  At the end of this trip, I arrive with no difficulties, safe and sound, and in a refreshed and content frame of mind.  Throughout this several hundred mile road journey, did my helmet protect me from head injuries?  If it did, it did so in exactly the same amount that my skull protected me from head injury.  There was no accident, no crash, no impact for the helmet (or my skull for that matter) to protect me from.  I have no idea how one could possibly do a study, without estimating, how many miles are ridden each year without need of a helmet.  Because all of these studies are comparisons of people who have already suffered head injuries.  I have rarely found anything that even remotely compares ridership to accident ratios with accident to head injury ratios.  In other words, how likely are you to have an accident in the first place, and then, how likely are you to have a head injury?  Then you can compare whether your head was better protected with or without a helmet.  Until then, quit discriminating against motorcyclists and bicyclists, by forcing us to put a helmet on our heads!

Recently I ran across a head injury study that had a bit of a different spin to it.  It was broken down by the percentage of head injuries by how they occured.  I was pleasantly surprised to see it didn't show motorcycles or bicycles near the top of the risk factors.  There was even a category entitled 'non-vehicle, non-bike' and the percentage of head injuries was the same as mototcycles and bicycles combined!!  But the government doesn't try to force a helmet on your head to protect you from injuring your head if you trip and fall.

It seems almost farcical to even suggest wearing a helmet to protect your head doing anything other than riding a bike or a motorcycle in our society.  Doesn't it?
Yet, according to a 1978 study of head injury causes in San Diego, California, bicycles and motorcycles only account for 16% of head injuries combined.  The largest source of head injuries, a full 53% are accidents involving automobiles.  Think about being forced to wear a helmet that meets government standards while driving your car.  If you tell me that I have to wear a helmet because it reduces my risk of head injury by 85%, and my risk of brain injury by 88%, then you damn well better be wearing one driving your car.  Because automobile accidents accounted for roughly 320% more head injuries than motorcycles and bicycles COMBINED!!  Yet how likely is it that a law will be passed mandating helmet use in automobiles in this study?  I have no illusions that will happen, because automobile drivers and passengers wouldn't stand for it.

The following graph is from the study; "The Epidemiology Of Head Injury, A Prospective Study Of An Entire Community-San Diego, California, 1978"

Which brings to mind my next question; "What gives you the right to choose not to wear a helmet to protect yourself against a higher risk of head injuries, while taking away MY RIGHT to make that same choice about a lesser risk?"

It is a clear case of discrimination, based on perceptions of a group, and not on any unbiased data of the comparison.  Either everyone at risk of head injury should be mandated to wear a helmet of comparable effectiveness, or they should have the  right to decide not to.  All people should have the same right to choose.  That is the essence of freedom.  Equally exercising each individuals right to decide what is an acceptable risk to their own person.  Not these unequal rights that the government imposes on some people and not on others.

As a child growing up during the 1960's and 1970's, I saw first hand the power of the people to get discriminatory laws changed.  There is still much work ahead of us as a society.  We have a long way to go before we are all truly equal under the law.  It won't be until society stops discriminating against groups who are different out of perceptions of fear instead of logical, factual information that we can begin to truly have equal rights for all citizens.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

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