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Piece of Mind: Bring Back Helmet Law

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Courtesy photo
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Helmet law saves lives, so why doesn't Legislaure bring it back?

I know this won’t happen, but it won’t deter me from saying it anyway.

It is that I would hope the 2021 Texas Legislature would rethink a decision that an earlier Legislature made. It rescinded a law that required motorcycle riders – such as those who drive them – to wear helmets.

The 1995 Legislature approved the rescission, which then was signed by the state’s newly elected governor, George W. Bush.

It is a law that I am certain that many Texans regret. Why? Because they have suffered grievous, traumatic head injury that would have been prevented had they been wearing protective headgear.

Now, of course the Legislature built in some safeguards against madness aboard motorcycles. It required children to wear helmets. It also requires licensed motorcyclists to carry insurance policies that cover a part of their hospitalization. Oh, but here’s the thing: The amount totals $10,000. Do you have any idea how quickly an injured motorcyclist can burn through 10 grand?

Just like – snap! – that. That makes me wonder how much value can be had in such a pittance of a policy.

The 1995 Legislature was feeling its Wheaties, as I recall, when it decided to pull back its mandatory helmet law. I argued vociferously at the time that the Legislature shouldn’t touch the law. I had that argument with many proud, independent Texans who actually disagreed with my view that helmets saved lives and saved Texans millions of dollars in insurance payment increases.

My favorite argument against helmet laws came from a guy in Orange County, Texas, who told me in the early 1990s that he had to feel the “wind in my hair” as he drove his motorcycle. I pray the fellow all these years later still has a head of hair and is still alive to feel it blowing in the breeze.

My wife and I spend time in our pickup driving around Texas; we haul our RV to state parks across our state. We do not exceed 60 mph while pulling our RV, so we get passed continually by motor vehicles along our highways. So help me, as God is my witness, I cringe when a helmet-less motorcyclist whizzes by at some untold speed. I pray he or she stays safe.

We both have a friend, a former colleague of mine, who some years ago got a phone call that every parent dreads. Her son had been involved in a motorcycle wreck in Amarillo. He suffered grievous wounds … to his head. He suffered irreparable brain damage. He lost cognitive skill, the ability to speak clearly and to the best of my knowledge is still living, albeit with state-funded assistance.

On the flip side, I once served with a guy in the Army who told me in 1970 about a terrible motorcycle wreck he suffered in his home state of Indiana. He was alive at that moment to recall what happened. Why? Because he was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

“The helmet,” he told me, “saved my life.” I would presume as well that it saved his fellow Indiana taxpayers a ton of money.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.

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