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Our View: helmet-repeal bill needs an extra insurance clause

May 12, 1999

After watching their efforts to repeal Pennsylvania's helmet law overturned twice in the past sixth months, you might think the state's motorcyclists would give up the fight. Not likely, judging by a Harrisburg rally Monday that saw 300 big bikes rumbling through the streets of the state capital.

Considering how close the vote was the last time (26-24 in the state senate) and the fact that the bill has the backing of Democratic minority leader H. William DeWeese, it just might pass this year. If that's going to happen, there are a few provisions that must be included in any repeal effort.

Motorcyclists in the group called ABATE - Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education - see the issue as one of personal freedom. In their view, if someone wants to forego the protection offered by a helmet, that should be the individual's choice.

We can go along with that, with a few provisos. An individual exercising his or her right to do without safety equipment shouldn't expect the taxpayers to pay an medical bills that result from unprotected skulls bouncing off the pavement.

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And in this case, waivers aren't enough, since the humanitarian traditions of this country dictate that injured people get treatment, whether or not they have insurance. We believe that those who take greater risks should accept greater liability and purchase additional insurance that would cover the cost of treating head traumas, and, if necessary, lifelong care.

We also believe that motorcyclists who choose to ride without helmets ought to be required, in the event of their accidental death, to donate their organs for the purpose of transplant and scientific research.

No matter how good their insurance policy may be, there'll still be a need for an emergency crew to scoop up their remains. To compensate that crew, some of which may be volunteers, for their trouble and the trauma of witnessing a gory death, cyclists should at least allow fire/rescue service personnel to save someone else's life, either through transplants or medical research. We await the legislature's next draft of this bill with great interest.

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