In 1966, the Highway Safety Act was passed and this called for the uniformity of the highway safety programs. This was also reinforced through the introduction of a penalty for the states that fails to implement it. However, the law never lasted for long and was suspended. Among the laws in the act was the universal mandatory wearing of helmets for all the user of motorcycles. (Harrisson 1995).
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During the president Bush administration, the helmet laws were adopted again as a mandatory for all motorists. For this time, the case was even more devastating where the policies took a different dimension. All the states were required to forcefully pass the law or they would be denied the highway construction and maintenance funding by the treasury. In that perspective, three of the states never obeyed this which included California, Illinois and Utah. But this law later took a different angle and the federal government was blocked from blocking the maintenance funding. (Yaw 1975).
This in turn led to the reversal of the action by the states and the number of states leaving the decision as a personal issue took a positive trend and increased expeditiously. This was argued that the victim of any accident is the same personal who fails to wear the helmet thus it should be an individual choice. Also, when the states emphasized more on the helmet laws, they sidelined other important motorists’ laws and safety, including the rider education and awareness campaign to the motorists thus indirectly increasing the accidents. (Russell 1999).
The American Motorists Association has historically been opposing the rules and laws that call for the mandatory wearing of helmets by all the motorists and motor cycle operators. This is on the fight for the voluntary use of the helmets with the choice of the motorist.
“The main purpose of the helmet laws is the protection of both the operator and the passenger from head injuries. This in turn falls more on a personal decision and safety and for this case it is not a proper exercise of police powers and may lead to the infringement of the personal liberty.” (Harrisson 1995).
Effects of helmets
Motor cycle helmets have too many demerits on top of the few advantages that are conceived on top of mind by the law makers. Amongst these disadvantages include:
Effects on eyes and ears
The helmets cause impairment of the eyes and hearing. The human ears react with respect the amount of pressure resulting from the outside atmosphere. When one is on a helmet, the pressure is increased and this negatively harms the human ear and with time, this leads into impairment in hearing. For the eyes, though the helmet consists of a transparent cover for one to see through, this indirectly works as the optical and the condition of the eyes deteriorates with time. It has been observed that most of the motorists who make us of helmets at last results into the use of optical due to the poor visibility. The helmet also restricts the rider’s field of vision. (Jonathan 2005).This range from one percent and as high as up to twenty two percent in the horizontal field and this depends with the type of helmet used. “For individuals without a helmet, the field of vision in the horizontal is 233 degrees whereas for the helmeted cyclists, this ranges from 182 degrees to 232 degrees” according to the research conducted by the University of Utah. (Harrisson 1995).
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Motorists or cyclists develop some sense of false security when they adorn the helmets. In other ways, the wearing of helmets can even lead to the increased insecurity. The individual face is mainly the major method of identifying oneself. With the helmet as a face mask, this would turn the identification of the criminals more tiresome and they could turn the use of motor bikes as their major means of transport. Though this depends on the speed of the motorcyclist, the use of a helmet affects the rider’s ability to hear the warning sounds. This is through the increased coverage of the ears. (Yaw 1975).
Though the helmet reduces the severity of head injuries, during the course of the riding, the helmet causes physical discomfort. The physical discomfort may distract the operator and even lead into a more severe accident. The helmets accumulates large amount of heat in the face and the head as a whole and this makes the rider uncomfortable. For riders with body complications, this could even lead to suffocation and lead to a fatal accident. (Russell 1999).
Violation of Rights
The mandatory use of helmets is the violation of the human rights. This in a way is the violent invasion of the personal liberty of the individual motorists. It creates personal inconveniences and also discomforts the rider with respect to the nature of the individual ways of riding. As a result, the use of the helmets should be of personal good and as a personal choice. (Harrisson 1995).
Loss of Resources
The mandatory use of helmets leads into loss of resources, both by the government and the individuals. Through the introduction of this law, a number of individuals stopped using motor bikes as their means of transport. This leads to loss of tax and was termed as discrimination of the minority motorists. The insurance bodies that were covering the motorists also lost their revenue. Immediately after the introduction of the helmet laws, the number of motor cycles registered in the country declined dramatically. This was after a tremendous increase that had been evident earlier before. (Ingrid 2001).
The citizens should have the same equality regarding the freedom of choice in matters related to the personal safety. This is as well exercised by the auto drivers and its imposition on the motorcyclists would lead into segregation and discrimination of the group of users. This brings the interlocking situation and the injustice in the motor cycle industry. (Harrisson 1995).
There are various types of helmets designs. These ranges from: “the full face, three quarter shell, and the half shell helmets.” These helmets especially full face ones are heavy in weight. This may lead to fatigue in the neck considering the resistance of the wind velocity. The momentum of the wind is high due to the high speed of the motor cycle and this opposing force is a great threat. These helmets greatly interfere with various sensory inputs as well. (Yaw 1975).
Increase in expenditure
Bike helmets calls for the regular replacement due to their high rate of degradation. This varies from as little as one year, depending on the various factors including the age of the rider. The duration is also dependent on the manner of storage of the helmet which in turn depends on the length of time in hours of daily use. This makes the structural integrity of the helmet to be lost within a very short duration. As a result, this makes he cost of maintenance to be very expensive. (Moynihan 1991).
In support for the inefficiency of the helmets, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had failed to issue the standards for their desired helmets until the year 1973. They had also failed in the conducting of research defining the safety and the effectiveness of the use of helmets. This failure of guidelines of the implementation and the standardization of the helmets quality, validity and worth of the safety creates more room for the less necessity of the helmets. (Moynihan 1991).
Mandatory motorcycle helmet legislation is not indispensable to an effective comprehensive traffic safety program. The use of helmets is just a one small unproven element in a comprehensive program desiring to ameliorate a complex problem. The motorcycle fatalities per 10,000 registered motor cycles is approximately the same as the national average. ( Ingrid 2001).
For example, California State has the best read ways and year round riding climate which indicates more miles of travel at higher speeds, thus a higher exposure rate. The death to injury ratio is approximately the same as the national average of the sates with mandatory helmet legislation. The down ward trend of the number of deaths per 10,000 registered motorists and deaths per injury is approximately the same in California as for the states with mandatory motor cycle legislation. This has led to big debate that the personal safety is the responsibility of each individual citizen and government should not attempt to protect the individual from himself. (Harrisson 1995).
Solution and Recommendations
The use of the beginner rider course that helps in instructing the motorcycle riders on the effective and safety in the riding would be the best opinion for the motor cycle drivers. This helps the driver in acquiring the basic knowledge and also in the gaining of experience in the safe riding procedures. Through the use of independent learning bodies and studies basis involving the attendance of classes, and the practical behind the bar instructions, the combination of the two would effectively help in the reduction of accidents. (Yaw 1975).
In the country, there has been less emphasis on the education of motorcyclists so as to make them better operators or better acquaint them with the risks involved so that would voluntarily utilize safety equipment. The government had solely been emphasizing on the imposition of regulations with the force of la w and this is required to be the last resort.
This shows the shortage in the leadership skills in the choice of alternatives or more imaginative pro grams for the safety of the motorcyclists. (Moynihan 1991).
Intensive campaign on the need for reduced accidents and increased safety in the roads would also effectively work in the education of the losses of lives resulting from motor bikes accidents. This would include offering of loans to the students for the aim of educational purposes. The exercise should be carried out nation wide thus facilitate for the effective implementation. As a result, this would train the on the motorcycle safety, sponsor occasional workshops when necessary on the road safety. This should also be taken a step further and be introduced in schools and in the universities as a common course to be taught to all the scholars. (Yaw 1975).
Strict and comprehensive laws on the use of motorists can be enacted to help in controlling the use of motorists. This has effectively taken part in some states like California. In this case, the motorists are required to have tested driving licenses with the inclusion of special classification and compulsory test. They have also introduced motorcycle drivers’ education in their public schools and also the intensified training on the road acts and regulations. (Moynihan 1991). The campaigns have also been increased through the use of media in informing the residents. This has positively impacted on the road safety in California, where it has proven that motorists can effectively proceed and operate their machines even more effectively than those states with the use of helmets as a mandatory condition. The number of accidents has tremendously reduced since each and every individual is aware of the worth of his/her life in this case. (Harrisson 1995).
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Many studies have been done in a considerable length of time, in the various states regarding the control of the wearing of helmets. This has brought forward mixed arguments regarding the mandatory imposition of the use of helmets by the entire motor cycle user. However, besides the provision of security against head injuries, helmets have many negatives impacts on the motorists.
These negative impacts among others include the loss of resources, denial of both the human and own security rights, neck injuries and also the effects on the vision and also hearing. This leads to the shortage of the support that shows the potential of the helmets to increase the personal safety.
There are other better means of reducing the number of accidents related to motorcycles and these are more professional and they are not personal. These include the issuing of all motorists with a driving license after a severe test of his efficiency. Also, the road safety and its worth should be introduced in high schools to help enlighten the population of its significance. This would help to indicate the use of helmets as a personal security other than the mandatory imposition of the law. As a result, the riders should voluntarily choose to use the personal helmets, regardless of the frequency or the type of messages communicated to them.
Harrisson G. American Motorcyclists: (1995). American Motorists Association, Westville.
Ingrid P., Timothy R. Neuman. (2001). Guidance for Implementation of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan: Transportation Research, Washington.
Jonathan M. Silver, Thomas W. McAllister, Stuart C. Yudofsky. (2005). Textbook of traumatic brain injury: American Psychiatric Publishers. Boulevard.
Moynihan D. (1991). Highway Safety Motorcycle Helmet Laws Save Lives and Reduce Costs to Society: General Accounting Gov. Press.
Russell. N, P. Dreyfuss, M. Cosgrove. (1999). Legislative History of Recent Primary Safety Belt Laws: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Researchers. Washington.
Yaw J. (1975). American motorists: Western states representatives’ publishers. California.