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Helmets, Motorcycles & The Right To Choose

July 11, 2011

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I began riding motorcycles 44 years ago at the age of 15. It’s one of those activities that I hope I can do for many years to come. I didn’t always wear a helmet. To be honest, I loved the feeling of the air blowing in my face and through my hair. Ohio used to have a helmet law, but no longer. The lawmakers apparently embrace, as public policy, the idea that riders assume the risks of their own behavior and that it’s not the role of government to act as an overprotective nursemaid.

Philip Contos was a bareheaded motorcyclist who died of a head injury after crashing in a ride protesting helmet laws. The irony in his tragic death raises the question, once again, whether riders should have the right to choose or whether government has an overriding interest in protecting riders and the taxpayers. What are those interests?  For every bareheaded rider killed who is the sole wage earner in the family, there is the potential that the family will need to go on public assistance. For every bareheaded rider who is rendered brain injured or crippled, and has insufficient health insurance, the taxpayers will likely foot the bill for his medical care. I know this because, for the past 32 years, I’ve represented the families of motorcycle riders throughout the state.

There are no winners in this debate. When you choose not to wear a helmet and choose wrong, you and your family pay the ultimate price, but you also place a heavy burden on your neighbors.

Authored by Attorney David M. Paris

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