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Another Potential Meaningless Victory for the Nanny State: Bike Helmets

Posted by on November 25, 2008

[This post was originally written for my employer’s blog, Show-Me Daily.]

Helmet laws are a popular mechanism by which state and local governments like to insert themselves into the lives of their citizenry, and the recent news out of Saint Louis County is no exception.

Naturally, I oppose this on ideological grounds, but I am willing to consider the case for the sake of argument. A plethora of good links can be found at Wikipedia’s section on the Bicycle Helmet Debate. The conclusion? There is no consensus, but there is also a dearth of reliable data on the efficacy of helmet-wearing. A rather pithy link points out:

  • Children are 2.6 times more likely to suffer head injury through jumping and falling than by cycling. [5]
  • Helmets for motorists are much more effective than those for cyclists and more beneficial than seat belts, interior padding or air bags. Their potential for reducing injury is 17 times greater than that of cycle helmets. [7] [3]

At this point, I am not prepared to say unequivocally that helmets do not improve safety significantly. I think we can all agree that car accidents are a much greater risk to us all, and therefore a helmets-while-driving law would entail much more improved safety, and much more voter outrage.

This proposal is a classic case of legislators lashing out at an “easy fix” that isn’t really that easy (but is unlikely to be unpopular) to a problem that doesn’t really exist. Cost/benefit analysis is out the window, because we must protect our children.

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