PA Helmet Law Changing

The helmet law in PA is about to be modified. Some people don't like it. Just reading this editorial makes me cringe - Longride

Here is an editorial from

Freedom's just another word, Janis Joplin sang, for nothing left to lose. Wrong. If riders of motorcycles in Pennsylvania had the freedom to go without helmets, some would eventually lose their lives or their brains. That is a fact as dependable as the thrill of a big bike's full-throated roar.

The human brain encased in a skull is a fragile wonder, as vulnerable as a yolk in an eggshell. Roads are hard and unyielding for any flesh that crashes into them. Unless the laws of physics are ameliorated by a helmet to take the brunt of a high-speed collision, the head that meets the macadam is in peril of being shattered, with death or brain damage often being the tragic result.

Those are the stark facts that led Pennsylvania (in 1968) and other states to pass safety helmet laws for motorcycle riders. Indisputably, these laws have worked to save many needless deaths and injuries. But groups like ABATE have campaigned for years for the right of individual riders to choose whether they want to wear helmets as a matter of personal freedom.

They stage periodic rides on state capitals and they lobby hard. Because motorcyclists have become fond American archetypes, their once-raffish image now gone mainstream, they have found a ready audience with politicians. The consequence is that helmet laws are threatened across the nation and some have been rolled back. Motorcycle deaths also have increased, a fact that seems linked in part to more lax laws.

In Pennsylvania, the helmet law was almost overturned in 1998, and now it is threatened again. SB 259 wouldn't repeal the helmet law completely, just write into it loopholes you could drive a Harley through.

Under this bill, if you are a rider 21 years or older and have had a license two years, you don't have to wear a helmet. The same applies if you are 21 or older and have attended a motorcycle safety course. If you are at least 21 and are riding as a passenger with a driver who doesn't have to wear a helmet, you don't have to either. To his shame, Gov. Ed Rendell has promised to sign this bill if the Legislature passes it.

To be sure, life can't be made completely safe, but at least society can insist on common sense from motorcycle riders as the price of exercising their driving privilege. A motorcyclist without a helmet may think he is exercising individual freedom, but it is society that picks up the cost if he suffers a needless brain injury. Opposing this bill ought to be a no-brainer.
Get in your Inbox
George Obradovich
George Obradovich

More by George Obradovich

Join the conversation