Sunday, July 27, 2003


Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has signed into law legislation that exempts most motorcycle drivers from the legal obligation to wear helmets when riding.

While many consider this a liberating move, giving bikers freedom of choice, others protest that that involved here is a serious safety issue that the state should regulate. The protestors liken the helmet requirement to the wearing of
seat belts in cars, mandated by the state. The argument is that, even though only the user's safety is jeopardized, the user's safety is a matter of public policy since any injury burdens our health care system.

This argument has prevailed in may instances, but does that possible burden justify regulation of individual decisions by Big Brother government? Such beliefs have led to edicts such as Mayor Bloomberg's smoking ban in New York City. The point is made that this ban removes the secondhand smoke risk for restaurant workers. True, but no one is forced to work in restaurants, just as no one is forced to work as a roofer or scuba diver.

Many activities create a risk of burdening our health care system. Just the act of driving presents a major risk. Swimming, boating, skiing, skateboarding would all be banned if we base legislation on possible increased health care costs. There is no logical place to draw the line. So let us hope that federal, state and local governments follow Pennsylvania's example and not unduly tamper with a citizen's right to make individual choices.