Bring Back Helmet Laws in PA

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carla's picture
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Last seen: 17 weeks 1 day ago
Joined: 2008-01-03 :36
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Yesterday as I sat stuck in traffic in my car on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, alongside me came a gray haired woman on a Vespa darting in and out of traffic. She had a helmet on, but was wearing a dress with a long skirt, purple I think. She wasn't wearing solid shoes either - she was wearing a sandal shoe for lack of a better description. A Vespa is still a motorbike, so I thought that kind of dangerous, just like the darting and weaving in and out of traffic.

Also yesterday, while running errands in Newtown Square as I sat at the intersection of Route 3 and Bryn Mawr Avenue facing Dunwoody, I saw two teenage boys riding illegal motorized mini bikes on West Chester pike. They were without helemts and were riding stunt style - as in their feet were on the seat, on the handle bars, not where one would have thought they should have been. I saw someone die in a car accident at this particular intersection a few months ago, so these boys I know for a fact were really tempting fate on a busy highway. And yes, Route 3 or West Chester Pike is a busy highway.

So I got to thinking about those two doctors, a married couple actually, who were hit by that Landrover earlier this summer in Bryn Mawr near Yang Ming. One died. One is goign to be recvoering for a VERY long time... I still think as per newspaper reports I have read that they were not wearing helmets when the Vespa crashed. To me that was surprising and stupid, considering they were doctors. But the laws don't say helmets are needed, do they?

I know someone in Chicago who had a Vespa accident not too long ago. They weren't going fast, but slid on a wet street. There are no helemet laws there either, apparently, and this person is lucky they escaped with only a busted rib and hurt shoulder.

When the helmet laws were repealed in Pennsylvania I couldn't believe it. I thought Rendell demonstrated great stupidity with that swipe of the pen in repealing helmet laws. A few years later, I still find it to be a mistake. I know a LOT of people who ride motorcycles, and they all use helmets. I also know people who are getting into the whole Vespa mode of transportation. None of them have helmets, and I wonder, in order to ride a Vespa, do these people have to take a safety course like you do if you wish to legally be able to drive a motorcycle?

I know many motorcycle riders who do not enjoy riding as much anymore because of the crazy drivers in this area. I fear for the Vespa drivers because they are so much smaller. Maybe it's time to bring back the helmet laws and expand it enough to include motorized things like Vespas,and Mini Bikes? Anyway, I am not the only one thinking about this ironically.

Please read this excellent article from Jeff Cobb of The Bulletin. He has told me I can post this :

Inside Today's Bulletin
Riding Safe, Riding Smart
By: Jeff Cobb, The Bulletin
09/12/2008

Are some motorcycle and scooter riders - traveling elbow-to-fender with cars, trucks and buses - taking too great of risks with their safety?

Since Gov. Ed Rendell...signed the helmet law repeal in July 2003, just months into his new administration, Pennsylvania riders over 21, with two-plus years experience have been free to ride un-helmeted.

In the meantime, government and industry officials have said, Pennsylvania is part of a national trend to repeal helmet laws.

The federal government stopped tying mandatory helmet laws to state funding in 1985. Since then, only about 20 states still universally require helmets, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)....And Gov. Rendell stands by his decision, according to his spokesman, Chuck Ardo.... transportation safety and industry representatives say serious problems remain.

In an atmosphere of mixed messages on what constitutes acceptable safe practices, more people are getting hurt.

And more than ever, it is said, riders need to fully determine the risks, and take responsibility for their own safety.

Evidence for a decline in adequate preparedness for the worst came in June this year from a University of Pittsburgh study examining the two years following the helmet law's repeal.

It found that head injuries - and often-untold financial and personal costs to individuals, their families, and friends - markedly increased...And according to Hong Zhang, director of education for the Snell Foundation in North Highlands, Calif. (www.smf.org), for even greater security, riders should consider a Snell-certified helmet.

The DOT standard allows impacts to the threshold of brain injury, she said, while Snell helmets pass the DOT test, and significantly higher impact absorbing tests.

But do these recommendations also apply to riders of smaller, economical motorbikes and scooters?

"A fall off a scooter is not very distinguishable from a motorcycle fall," Mr. Hurt said, "Dead scooter riders look just like dead motorcycle riders."

Jeff Cobb is the managing editor at The Bulletin. He has street ridden and occasionally road-raced motorcycles for 28 years, and currently rides a 1000cc Yamaha R1. He can be reached at

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JohnN's picture
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Last seen: 5 years 4 days ago
Joined: 2007-11-10 :54
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Your observations are correct IMNO. The riders are quick to report that this is a personal freedom issue. If the concept of contributory negligence were still alive in this country I might agree. BUT, if a person chooses to NOT wear a helmet, then has a serious accident we all get to pay for their choice. Either through our insurance premiums or through taxes we will pay. So, much like the current financial situation (bailouts and such) we reward risk and socialize losses.

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lmwatcher's picture
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Last seen: 5 years 50 weeks ago
Joined: 2008-07-08 :56
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First, I'd say Rendell is a hypocrit for supporting a seatbelt law, but not a helmet law.

I personally would never ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Heck, I don't ride motorcycles. Not because I don't trust my ability - I don't trust other drivers and a motorcycle (even with a helmet) up against a 4,000 pound car that may cut you off is not a safe place to be.

That being said, I believe people should be able to make their own personal choices with seatbelts or helmets. It's that slippery slope and government creep into peoples lives (like not being able to have your cat in your own back yard while under your observation in Lower Merion without having to go before a judge). Heck, I believe a private business should be able to choose to allow smokers or not - and I can't stand smoking. The fact that society pays for the increased injury when not wearing helmets is a very good point, though.

Those who ride motorcycles without helmets should have to pay highly increased insurance rates to meet the actuarial burden to make their foolish behavior cover the medical costs - though I'm not sure that scheme would work as those who don't wear helmets would probably say they do when they apply for insurance.

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el109's picture
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Last seen: 1 year 34 weeks ago
Joined: 2006-07-27 :50
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Being a motorcyclist, I would not ride without a helmet. I'm not sure where I fall in terms of requiring helmet use, but I think if you're involved in an accident without a helmet, then your insurance should be void. Pay for any damages or care out of your own wallet.

There are two kinds of motorcyclists. Those who have fallen and those who will fall.

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