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Loony law endangers many

June 16, 2006

Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger apparently sustained no life-threatening or career-ending injuries in his recent motorcycle crash.

That was more a matter of luck than anything else, because Pennsylvania doesn't require adult cyclists to wear helmets.

For that "favor," thank Gov. Ed Rendell, who signed a bill in 2003 to repeal the state's helmet law.

Before the repeal, we said we could accept it if riders who wanted to go bare-headed purchased supplemental insurance, as some other states require.

Just because some citizens want to engage in risky behavior, they ought not ask other citizens to pay for their care if they're injured.

Looking at California, which enacted a helmet law in the early 1990s, the National Highway Transit Safety Administration found that the state's costs for treating motorcycle-related head injuries dropped from $40 million to $24 million a year.

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But the best argument may come from a Massachusetts court's opinion on a challenge to that state's helmet law - a case upheld in 1972 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The key portion reads as follows:

"From the moment of the injury, society picks the person off the highway, delivers him to a municipal hospital and municipal doctors, provides him with unemployment compensation if, after recovery, he cannot replace his lost job, and if the injury causes permanent disability, may assume the responsibility for his and his family's subsistence.

"We do not understand the state of mind that permits the plaintiff to think that only he himself is concerned."

Neither do we.

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