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Opinion Letters Motorcycle fatalities likely to increase

One of the first pieces of legislation that state senator Jim Davis sponsored was Senate Bill 480 titled “Let Those Who Ride Decide.” As a physician I was particularly aware of the totally needless deaths and injuries caused by motorcycle riders who do not use helmets.

One of my first experiences in the medical profession was seeing an autopsy being performed on a young man killed because of a head injury while riding a motorcycle without a helmet. (It turned out this person was the first person my future wife ever dated).

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, 4,502 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle crashes. Head injury is a leading cause of death.

Motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent. In 2010 on average 12 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing helmets in states with universal helmet laws, compared with 64 percent in partial helmet law states (only younger riders required to have helmets), and 79 percent in states without a helmet law. Just in one year 2010, $3 billion in costs were saved as a result of helmet use in the U.S.; however, another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. N.C. currently has a universal helmet law requirement and in 2010, we led the nation in the amount of economic costs saved from helmet use per registered motorcycle ($1,627) or well over $160 million per year.

The bill Senator Davis introduced would have allowed anyone over age 18 to ride without a helmet. I personally spoke to Davis at my house and informed him of these statistics. His response to me was that he just introduced this bill as a favor to a friend and there was no way this bill would ever get out of legislative committees, and if it did, he probably would not vote for his own bill.

Unfortunately, the same bill has just been passed by a State House committee (although the age limit was raised to 21).

Data on crashes in states where only minors are required to wear helmets show that fewer than 40 percent of the fatally injured minors wear helmets even though the law requires them to do so. Helmet laws that govern only minors are extremely difficult to enforce.

My particular take on this legislation is that it is extremely stupid policy knowing the statistics about increased loss of lives, suffering, and the economic cost to each and every citizen whether we ride motorcycles or not. In addition, I truly feel this type of legislation is immoral in that we know in advance how much damage it would do to the citizens of N.C.

I have spoken with Governor McCrory's office and he has apparently not decided on whether he would support this legislation because he has not heard from enough citizens yet. I urge each and every one of you to contact your state senator, state legislator, and Governor McCrory to put a stop to this most stupid of legislative polices.

Ed Morris, MD Chairman
Macon County Democratic Party


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