Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

May 6, 2007

Implied Consent

I started riding a motorcycle in 1974. I rode a Honda XL250, a street legal dirt bike (nowadays they’re called dual sport bikes). I rode that bike until 1981 (when it got stolen). In 2002, I got the itch again to start riding. I bought a Kawasaki KLR650, a 650 cc dual sport bike. Since there’s no dirt around Nashville, I ended up trading it in for a Yamaha V-Star 650 Silverado cruiser. I’ve been riding that bike now for almost 4 years.I’ve only had one incident where I actually needed the helmet. This must have been in 1976 or ’77 during the summer when I was on vacation from college. In the area of East Tennessee where I’m from, there are a lot of hilly areas. I was on a road near my parents’ house when I saw a little hill that looked like it’d be fun to climb.

The top of the hill couldn’t have been more than 20 feet, so it wasn’t a big one (I’d already had experience climbing bigger hills in strip mines that had yet to be reclaimed). I got a run at the hill and too late noticed it had a little hump in the middle. When the front tire hit that hump, the front end came off the ground. Next thing I knew, I was flying over the back end of the bike, like I’d been bucked off a bull. I landed on my butt and my head went backwards into the ground… right onto a big rock. If I hadn’t been wearing the helmet, I’m not sure what would have happened. At the very least, I’d have been knocked out. Worst case scenario is that I would have died.

You could say then that I know a little bit about motorcycles and helmets. I always wear a full-face helmet and either a leather jacket or a mesh motorcycle jacket for protection. I also wear gloves and at least heavy blue jeans. If some idiot in a car cuts me off and I have to lay the bike down, I’d like to lose as little skin as possible.

The lawmakers of the Great State of Tennessee want to repeal the law that says motorcycle riders over the age of 21 have to wear a helmet. House Bill 1283 and Senate Bill 1511 looks to be on its way to passage and will take effect July 1, 2007. A motorcycle “rights” organization, CMT/Abate, has apparently lobbied enough to get this introduced this session.

This has got to be one of the worst pieces of legislation to come out of this session. Not only is repealing the helmet law a bad idea, it’s going to cost everyone. I daresay that insurance costs will rise, not only for motorcyclists, but for automobile policies as well.

It’s obvious why motorcycle rates would go up, but why would rates go up for auto policies you ask? If you hit a motorcyclist who isn’t wearing a helmet, his hospital bills are going to be astronomical (assuming he survives). A few of these situations and insurance companies are going to have to raise auto rates.

One question I have about the legislation is, why 21? Why not 18? Or 16? Is it the legislation’s contention that an 18 year old isn’t smart enough to make the decision about whether or not to wear a helmet? Why is that person smarter on his 21st birthday than he is when he’s 20 years and 364 days old?

CMT/Abate wants to make this a “freedom” issue. If it were truly a “freedom” issue, you wouldn’t need a license to drive a car or motorcycle at all; you could just do it. But it’s not a freedom issue. It’s a highway safety issue. The state has not only the right but the duty to enact laws to keep motorists as safe as possible. With this law, the state is abandoning that duty.

So, since the state legislature is bound and determined to interfere with Darwin, I have a proposal for an amendment to the law. Here’s what the bill says now:

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-9-302, relative to crash helmets.


SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-9-302, is amended by adding the following language as a new subsection:

(c) This section shall not apply to any person twenty-one (21) years of age or older.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2007, the public welfare requiring it.

I would propose that there be a SECTION 1(d) worded as follows:

(d) Any person (1) who chooses not to wear a helmet, (2) who is involved in a motorcycle crash, and (3) who is declared to be brain dead by a physician, shall be deemed to have consented to be an organ donor.

The state already has an implied consent law for persons suspected of drunk driving (i.e. if you’re pulled over and the officer asks you to take a breathalyser test, you’ve already given your consent to be tested by the very fact that you’re a licensed driver). This law would be similar. By the very fact that you chose not to wear a helmet, you’re giving your implied consent to be an organ donor.

So, some “public welfare” could come of this law after all, if the legislature were to add this amendment to the bill.

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