Commentary: Veto of helmet law will save lives

By Will Sites/Assistant Prof. of Journalism

Wearing my full-face helmet while riding along Missouri Highway 185 in Franklin County. (Photo: Will Sites)

On July 19, 2019 Gov. Mike Parson vetoed SB 147, a transportation bill that would have allowed motorcyclists 18 and older to ride without a helmet. His fellow Republicans sponsored and passed the bill. Parson says he didn’t like a provision of the bill that would have allowed suspending drivers licenses for unpaid traffic fines. In any case, the veto will not only survive an override – it will save many lives.

A helmet saved mine.

On a cold day in February of 2018, I was driving a Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycle in Crawford County, Mo. For some reason, an oncoming teen driver turned into my path. I don’t remember the accident, but a witness says I hit the SUV nearly head-on, smashed my head into the side of the vehicle, and then rolled across the hood before landing on my head on a state highway. She said I looked like a rag doll flipping over the car before rolling across the pavement. I was knocked unconscious and stayed that way for quite some time.

I woke up on a medical helicopter en route to a St. Louis trauma center. At that point, I had been unconscious for more than an hour. The initial medical assessment included a severe – perhaps even life-threatening – head injury. Even though I was wearing a full-face helmet (see photo), the impact of my head slamming into the vehicle fractured my orbital eye socket, bloodied my nose, and temporarily shocked nerves in my face and teeth. My physicians all agree on one thing: a helmet saved my life.

About 20 states have universal helmet laws – all riders must wear a helmet. Other states require riders under a certain age wear helmets and a few don’t require helmets. It’s not clear why Sen. David Sater (R-Dist. 29) allowed the helmet provision into SB 147, which proposed numerous transportation law changes. Why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to make riding more dangerous is beyond my scope of reasoning. There are good key points in keeping helmets on the heads of riders.

My totaled KLR 650. (Photo: Will Sites)

The pro-helmet crowd point to the increase in medical and insurance costs associated with head injuries. States that weaken helmet laws always see a rise in fatalities and serious head injuries. Those wanting to ride without protection point to freedom of choice issues. Simply put, they want to feel the wind in their hair. Some states allow riders to choose, but only with proof of medical insurance. For me, a helmet law simply lessens the risk of harm to riders and passengers. Motorcycles are inherently dangerous. Accidents often result in horrific – and expensive – injuries.

My accident racked-up more than $60,000 in medical bills and left me with a totaled motorcycle. I was kept in the hospital overnight and released the next day. One accident, one night in the hospital – $60k. Insurance covered most of it. Although I continue to heal from the concussion, I’m thankful that someone in the Capitol was wise enough to demand helmets. Demanding the right to feel the breeze through my hair is not persuasive enough.

Thank you, Gov. Parson, for looking out for motorcyclists.

About The Clarion News

Campus and community news produced by journalism students at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
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