Riding Helmetless Only for Numbskulls

Article excerpt

State Rep. Dan Frankel remembers well the day his fellow House members voted to repeal the state's mandatory helmet law for bikers.

The Squirrel Hill Democrat had just supported paying for an exhaustive study by the legislative Budget and Finance Committee on the effects of helmet law repeal, the results of which would not be ready for nearly three years.

But with the governor beholden to anti-helmet lobbyists and groups such as ABATE -- or Alliance of Bikers Aimed Towards Education -- Pennsylvania's 35-year-old helmet law had about as much chance of surviving as a bareheaded biker in a 70 mph head-on crash.

That might be a poor choice of metaphor, but nearly three years after legislators rescinded the law, the study shows that helmetless bikers are getting hurt more often and more severely than those who protect their heads.

"You hear a lot about how the recent increase in motorcycle accidents corresponds with the increase in motorcycle registrations, but the statistics in the study show that the increase in injuries clearly exceeds the number of new bikes registered," said Frankel.

Not only have the number of crashes increased in the 34 months that Pennsylvania's easy riders have defiantly bared their scalps to the wind, the severity of the injuries they've sustained also has increased. The study notes that the rate of motorcyclists admitted to trauma centers has jumped from 28.8 per 10,000 riders to 42.2, since Sept. 2003.

That's about 200 serious head injuries, most requiring lengthy, expensive stays in intensive care wards and later, rehabilitation centers. …