8 Ball In The Wind

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Social Burden

I find it hard not to be insulted when people revert back to the knee jerk position that because motorcyclists get so horribly injured in a motorcycle accident that we become a burden to society.  Such a burden in fact, that we should have our freedom to choose what level of protection we use when we ride governed not by our own experience and training, but by society's illinformed paternalistic control.  That is the key point, control.

Even though Washington state is proud to consider itself a very liberal state in many areas, it still happily tries to control it's citizens.  Look at the Rights that Washington state protects, and it becomes more of a puzzle to see the Rights it ignores.  We have here in Washington the Right to; choose to marry who we wish (regardless of gender), use medical (and even more recently recreational) marijuana, enjoy some of the most strongly worded privacy Rights in the country.  Yet we do not have the RIGHT to choose whether to wear an unnatural weight upon our head when riding motorcycles.

Because there is a false fear that we will inevitably crash, and then our medical bills will then become a burden on society.  In a way, I find this offensive as well.  It is certain that over time, we will crash given enough time and miles traveled.  But to be told that when we crash, if we aren't wearing a helmet, we will become so incapacitated that we will become a burden on our families, and society in general.  What a load of rubbish.  While I am not disputing that some motorcyclists are severely injured in crashes, and can have life changing medical expesnse over a long term, it is the concept that we are such a major burden that I find most offensive.

In a study by the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center; it was determined that 49.5% of injured motorcyclist had their injury costs covered by insurance, and 50.4% of other road trauma victims had their injury costs covered by insurance.  At first glance, it would seem that motorcyclists are a somewhat greater burden than those other injured on the highways.  But let's take a closer look at those percentages, shall we?

Using these figures, and the actual 2012 injury stats from the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, things look a bit different.

As you can see, motorcyclists who suffer "serious injuries" ( in Washington state a "serious" injury is anything that would keep you from driving off and on your way.  In otherwords broken bones, lacerations, etc.) and whose medical costs are not covered by insurance, thus relying on government aid is still less than 75% of other highway trauma victims.  Yet little is mentioned about automobile accident victims, pedestrians, and bicyclists being a social burden.

Why is it, that there are other more costly 'burdens' to society that, while not quite socially acceptable, are still considered an individuals personal right?  Smoking, and consumption of alcohol come to mind quite readily.  Yet, even with the extremely large costs to society in many areas, these activities are not only permitted, but readily available to participate in.  I can easily go to the store and buy a few packs of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey and nothing will be said.  But if I ride my motorcycle to the store to purchase the whiskey and cigarettes, while not wearing a helmet, I am suddenly some risk taking lunatic with a death wish.  It doesn't make sense to me.

I would like to know about those people injured and incapacitated, needing government aid to help with their medical bills.  How many of them suffered head injuries?  How many suffered incapacitating injuries unrelated to head injuries?  Most of all, I would like to know how many suffered neck injuries attributable to wearing a helmet on their head?  

It is not natural to have that weight on your head, and a human neck must deal with the additional stresses involved with that extra weight.  Here's a quote from the helmet manufacturer Racers Market on just that subject; "The speed of impact with a heavy helmet when you don't hit something with your head is important.  As the heavier helmet stretches your neck more, with more risk of neck injuries."

So tell me again, why are motorcyclists such a social burden that we aren't allowed the Right to decide for ourselves what level of protection and risk we are willing to accept?  Why are we being discriminated against, forced to wear helmets that are only rated to withstand an impact of 13.4 mph, that helmet manufacturers admit can also cause neck injuries?

Here is state Senator Don Benton's statements on this matter.  Listen to what he has to say, and see if it helps to clarify my point.

Catch you on the road sometime...

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