Unless your goal is making more organs available for transplants, the easiest bill to vote against in the 1997 session of the Maryland General Assembly should be the one that would repeal the law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. We will, however, back the repeal if the sponsors will agree to a compromise, which we'll describe shortly.
Let's look at the facts. In 1992, the year the helmet law was first passed, 54 motorcyclists were killed. Last year, it was just 26. Now considering there are now 189,000 licensed motorycle operators in the state, the number of facatlities seems small. But there are physical and financial costs those figures don't reflect.
First, the physical costs: Even though it's the law, not all Maryland motorcyclists use helmets. At the Adams-Cowley Shock Trauma Center, a Maryland facility specializing in head and spinal injuries, motorcycle crash victims who didn't wear helmets died in 7.4 percent of the cases. Without helmets, however, the death rate dropped to just 1.3 percent. Non-users sustained major brain injuries in 30 percent of the cases, as opposed to an 11 percent injury rate for helmet wearers.