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Should Bikers Have to Wear Helmets in Minnesoat? Essay Example

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Essay

Paragraph 1/Introduction: Introduce the debate with statistics about motorcycle helmet laws in Minnesota and other states in the U.S.A. Set the stage for a comparison between Minnesota’s absence of laws and other states’ legislation that gives us a viewpoint into the greater issue of whether helmet use should or should not be legislated in Minnesota.

Paragraph 2: Summarize the potential reasons why states have laws in favor of helmet use.

Paragraph 3: Summarize the potential reasons why states do not have laws in favor of helmet use.

Paragraph 4: Further examine and analyze the reasons against, since Minnesota currently has no such law.

Paragraph 5: From the conclusions in 4, it seems that the debate about helmets falls into the greater debate about when government should intervene in individual’s lives and when freedom should be maintained on the individual level.

Paragraph 6: Introduce the Larson case, which has introduced the helmet debate into Minnesota public discourse, emphasizing that some time individual choice does not always represent the best choice for the individual.

Paragraph 7/conclusion: summarize the point made in paragraph 6 by also emphasizing that human freedoms should not all be considered equal, and some issues of where individual autonomy lies are more trivial than others.

The debate concerning the mandatory wearing of motorcycle helmets in the state of Minnesota seems to fall within the greater debate about when government should or should not intervene in our individual life choices. However, when considering that the decision to wear or not wear a helmet may be considered a trivial choice that does not impede upon the individual’s freedom in a radical manner, and may, moreover, save the individual’s life, there does not seem to be a coherent logic as to why helmet use for motorcyclists should not be required.

In comparison with other American states, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that Minnesota has some of the more lax motorcycle helmet laws in the country. As of February 2013, in Minnesota, current motor cycle helmet legislation only makes the wearing of helmets mandatory to those seventeen years of age or younger. (IIHS) This can be compared to other states, usually those considered the most progressive, such as California and New York, where helmet wearing is obligated by law for all bikers. (IIHS) One of the important points that arises from such wide-varying opinions by lawmakers across the United States concerning helmets and motorcycles is that there is no clear consensus as to which is the best course of action to pursue. Clearly, there is an aspect of safety at stake in the issue, since the very reason why the use of helmets should potentially be written into law is that it may potentially save lives as well as potentially preventing devastating injuries. In other words, if these laws exist, there seems to be a single reason for this law and that is safety. In contrast, the decision not to make any formal legal rulings about helmets and motorcycles can be split into two separate arguments. On the one hand, the issue is not deemed significant enough, or in other words, the observed injuries caused by the lack of helmet are too insignificant to merit any greater legal position on a state level regarding the issue. It is not necessary to regulate every aspect of our existence, and since deaths and injuries as a result of a lack of helmets are minimal, this issue also does not require any definitive law by the state. On the other hand, it could be argued that the states that do not pass such laws place a higher emphasis on individual freedom of choice, not wishing to infringe on the motorcyclist’s personal autonomy regarding how he or she prefers to ride their bike. This is to say that they do recognize a danger in riding without a helmet for bikers, but ultimately consider autonomy more important than these same potential dangers. It would seem that the first option as why not to legalize helmets, i.e., that the injuries incurred are too insignificant to merit further legal attention, is not the motivation behind this choice. This is because all throughout the country and in American culture in general there is a continual emphasis on individual health and safety, particularly on the state and federal levels. The government is continually intervening in various spheres of our existence to try and guarantee that American citizens lead a healthy and safe life. The government, therefore, has taken a certain responsibility to protecting its citizens, as we can see from any number of governmental organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration’s careful regulation of consumer products.

However, this point ties into the second argument as to why such helmet laws remain absent in Minnesota: there is a greater debate in America ongoing, and which has undergone in America for countless decades, concerning the role of government in the American citizen’s life. There is a particular American tradition that the government should be less intrusive in the lives of its citizens, and this line of thought is often traced back to the very founding of the U.S. Constitution and the decisions of the Founding Fathers. In this case, the decision to not legislate helmet laws appears to fall in line with this same tradition of individual liberty. In other words, there is not enough of a danger involved in riding without helmets so as to justify the infringement of freedom of choice on an individual and personal level.

From this perspective, however, the debate about helmets is not entirely about motorcycles themselves: it falls within a context of what should be regulated by government and what should be allowed to be determined by individual choice. What are the proper spheres of government intervention, and in what areas should the government remain absent in influencing our lives? There are those who will state that government intervention should be minimal and therefore motorcycle helmets fall within the category of issues that should not be decided upon by political officials and lawmakers.

The difference between restricting freedom and promoting safety is seen in many other issues, for example, the gun control debate. In the particular case of motorcycle helmet writing, the arguments of why one should not wear a helmet seem less compelling. What are the reasons in favor of not wearing a helmet? Is it an example of personal choice, such as in the tragic death of Brittany A. Larson, which will be discussed below? However, here the personal choice has no tangible benefit, other than the most trivial expression of freedom. Individuals certainly have degrees of autonomy in regards to their decisions, however, in this case imploring bikers to wear helmets is hardly infringing upon freedom, but rather an effort to save lives and thereby advance a public policy that itself demonstrates a commitment to the health of the state’s citizens.

In other words, the reasons why restricting helmet usage are simply too banal to form a formidable argument: if the individual wishes to express their freedom, there are multiple other ways to truly express their freedom in a constructive way, such as aiding others, rather than adhering to a childish imperative to do what one wants despite the clear safety risks at stake by refusing to wear a helmet.

With the recent debates about motorcycle helmets in Minnesota, there nevertheless appears to be a growing concern that some times individual choice does not always mean the best choice for the individual. People make incorrect choices all the time, and when such incorrect choices can be prevented by a law that is not too restrictive and essentially trivial, then it should be enacted and put into writing. For example, in Minnesota the debate on motorcycle helmet laws was re-ignited in June, 2012, when 22 year old Brittany A. Larson was killed riding her motorcycle without a helmet, leading to her mother campaigning in favour of such a law. (Collins, 2012) Larson in particular cited examples of her daughter’s general carefree attitude and lack of serious forethought as reasons for her decision to not wear a helmet, ultimately costing her life. (Collins, 2012) On Minnesota roads, approximately 36 bikers are killed each year. (Collins, 2012) The writing into law of a helmet law would have potentially saved Larson’s life. Of course, it would have also infringed upon her freedom. However, is wearing or not wearing a helmet really an important measure of one’s freedom, especially in the case when death becomes the ultimate taker of freedom?

Hence, when we understand freedom and individual choice in a more nuanced form, instead of merely shouting out “this demands individual freedom” without considering the issue at stake, it appears clear that there are significant and insignificant issues of personal decision. From another perspective, individual choice does not always benefit the individual who makes this choice. This is not an important issue of government intervention vs. personal choice, but rather is about potentially saving lives by negating ill informed choices with no tangible benefit.

Works Cited

Collins, B. (2012). “The Helmet Law Debate.” June 8, MPR News.  Accessed at:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2012/0

6/5x8_-_6812.shtml

IIHS. (2013). “Motorcycle and Bicycle Helmet Use Laws.” February, www.iihs.org.

Accessed at:   http://www.iihs.org/laws/HelmetUseCurrent.aspx

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