East Tennesseans Debate Helmet Law

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - To wear a helmet while riding your motorcycle or not? Is it a question of safety or a question of freedom? Depends on who you ask.

Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb has both sides of the debate.

There's a lot of debate about whether you should or should not wear a helmet. It's even debatable among motorcyclists. Some say you should. Others say you shouldn't be forced to.

Motorcycles are as popular in East Tennessee as apple pie and baseball are to America, but should legislators dictate to you about what they feel is safe or not? Depends on who you ask.

"Let each person make their own judgment whether they want to wear it or not. I don't think it's for a legislator to tell me where I can wear a seat belt or a helmet. It's none of their business," Kenny Rogers.

"I'm not saying they're real comfortable and they don't make your hair look too good but I think as far as being responsible I think they're the best thing to do. You never know when an accident is going to happen," says Tim Fowler.

But some doctors say statistics tell the tale. Dr. Clinton Wight says there used to be tough motorcycle helmet laws in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Kentucky. "Those have been repealed and since then they saw immediately a great increase in fatalities and deaths."

Dr. Wight says people who wear helmets face better chances in recovering from head trauma than those who don't. "You may continue to b4e in a coma and it may not be recoverable which certainly puts a burden on those who care for you."

Not to mention the costs to you or society for those injured who wear helmets versus those who don't.

"With a helmet would cost about ten thousand dollars in hospitalization. They save an average that jumped up to forty, fifty thousand dollars," Dr. Wight says.

One motorcyclist says it's really a Catch-22. It's his right to choose versus him being forced to pay for others healthcare costs.

The bill has passed the Senate but still faces passage by a Budget Subcommittee and one more before debate in the State House.

What do you think about this topic? Share your thoughts below.


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  • by Renegade Location: Knoxville on May 6, 2007 at 12:31 PM
    There is no substantiated evidence in any state that insurance rates have increased as a result of legal choice of wearing a helmet. Increases in motorcyclists death is seldomly compared with the dramatic increases in ridership nor, vehicle miles traveled. For example. last week an article came out in a prominent KY newspaper stating that the death of motorcyclists had increased 50% since the repeal of the helmet law. No corresponding statistics were mentioned. The same day, an article in a prominent TN newspaper stated that the death rate in this state had increased over 50% over the last few years. If helmets are the end all to motorcycle safety, why is a helmetted state seeing the same increases as a non-helmetted one? Increased ridership and increased vehicle miles traveled. The other key factor is that the percentage of motorcyclists deaths caused by Right of Way violations of automobile drivers has not decreased. I did not elect my legislators for them to try and protect my person. GOD is MY helmet.
  • by les Location: knoxville on May 5, 2007 at 12:58 PM
    Let the ones who ride decide!
  • by Ted Location: Kreutzberg on May 5, 2007 at 11:52 AM
    There are all kinds of laws and regulations aimed at protecting us from our own poor judgment. The helmet law is another one.
  • by jeff Location: sweetwater on May 5, 2007 at 10:57 AM
    I think it should be an individuals right to choose and not the states right to tell. But all responsible riders should wear one, especially on the interstates and larger roads
  • by Scott Davenport Location: crossville on May 4, 2007 at 11:23 PM
    I think it would be nice to have the option. a ride thru cades cove w/o a helmet would be awsome -but on the other hand, 22 years ago a helmet saved my life! let the insurance rates for non helmet riders be the decision maker, If your gonna play you'll have to pay. I don't want to have to pay a higher rate for someone else to ride on the interstate w/o a helmet. common sense will always prevail.
  • by Elliott Alexander Location: Miami, FL on May 4, 2007 at 07:34 PM
    I have been a motorcycle rider for 25 years and I'm a firm believer of wearing a helmet. When the helmet law was repelled in FL, I wrote governor Bush and one of his officials responded that repelling the helmet law would lower hospital costs, because helmet-less riders would be required to have medical coverage. Well, I guess the statistics have proved them wrong. I believe you need to be older than 21 to skirt the helmet law, but in spite of this, motorcycle deaths under the age of 21 have increased as well. It's difficult or impossible for a police officer to know if a rider hasn't reached the helmet free age yet, so it's not enforced. Motorcycles keep getting faster and the easy financing terms make bigger more expensive bikes more attainable to buyers. I believe the trend of increasing deaths will continue, until further legislation is enacted to prohibit new, inexperienced rider from going out an purchasing the fastest bikes available. New riders should be limited to much smaller cc sized bikes until they gain at least several years experience to enable them to safely rider larger and faster bikes. The other problem is manufacturers today can make a 400cc bike capable of doing 140 mph. Riders would have to be limited to no more than a 250CC motorcycle for the first three years of their licenses.

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