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No Helmet, No Guaranteed Safety for Motorcyclists in PA

Goldstein Heslop Steele Clapper Oswalt & Smith Dec. 10, 2021

In 2003, state legislature passed a controversial law making helmets optional for motorcycle riders in Pennsylvania. Fifteen years later, the data shows an increase in motorcycle fatalities as predicted by state lawmakers who opposed this law. The law allows both motorcyclists and their passengers, age 21 and older an exemption from wearing a helmet.

The same law that made it optional to wear a helmet now has an increase of 60 percent annual motorcyclist fatalities. The controversy of this law places personal freedom in question as opposed to putting safety first as some politicians have argued. Those in favor of the 2003 helmet law may attribute the increase of fatalities as a result of distracted drivers on smartphones.

What Helmet Supporters Say

Helmet supporters argue that motorcyclists need safety laws to protect themselves from an inevitable outcome. Motorcyclists enter the roadways being the smallest among many other vehicles, and often accelerate to fast speeds making quick lane changes. Solid pavement surrounds motorcycle riders on course with impact resistant vehicles at similar speeds. Without the protection of a safety helmet, a motorcyclist can only rely on a miracle to escape a crash without severe head injuries.

Medical doctors and EMT workers argue the need for safety laws after witnessing first-hand the consequences of not having any protective headgear while in a crash. The human skull is vulnerable when directly impacted by rock-solid asphalt and other vehicles at high speeds.

No Helmet on The Basis of Personal Freedom

Those who argue to keep the helmet law are concerned with how this law hinders personal freedom. It is a right that each motorcyclist has to choose whether to wear a helmet before entering the roadways or not.

The opposition holds a firm stance against government mandating a law seen to be the right of personal choice instead. The knowledge and reports related to the risk of not wearing a helmet are publically accessible. Now the burden of decision making is on the riders of motorcycles, rather than a mandatory legal responsibility.

The Controversy Continues

Regardless of your opinion on the topic, the results continue to show an increase of motorcyclist deaths without a helmet. The family members directly impacted by such tragedies are likely to shoulder an additional burden of medical and legal costs. This is certainly a concern that continues to be raised among lawmakers as the line is drawn between personal freedom and safety.