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Mandatory helmet law is necessary

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

It was with mouth-dropping amazement and sadness that I read the Nov. 9 Telegraph headline: “Are helmet laws needed?”

As a general surgeon responsible for trauma care in the Sauk Valley for 30 years, I’ve cared for numerous patients in motorcycle accidents where their only injury was a head injury because of the lack of a helmet.

Those injuries led either to death or to lifelong debilitating disabilities.

I was also a state evaluator of trauma programs, and a distressing fact was how many more head injuries occurred across our state compared to other states with helmet laws.

Therefore, another way to phrase this headline would be: “Should we attempt to preserve life, or should we allow as many head injuries as possible to increase the number of organs available for transplant?”

The article did a commendable review of the reasons helmet laws are rational. 

Statistically, it’s irrefutable that wearing a helmet when on a motorcycle significantly reduces the number of fatal and debilitating injuries.

It’s also irrefutable that head injuries cause a significant drain on our economy by direct medical costs, in great part sustained by the taxpayer, and by indirect loss of productivity of the injured.

The argument given by ABATE against helmet laws is absurd. If the logic of “the right of choice” was valid, there would be no speed limits, seat belt laws, or child restraint laws, negating 50 years of progress in decreasing traffic accident injuries and deaths. Existing seat belt and child restraint laws have saved millions of people from death and major injuries, and our economy billions of dollars.

I’ll never understand how our state legislators support seat belt laws and not helmet laws.

For the sake of our citizens’ health and our state’s economy, I pray someday our representatives will wake up, be courageous and consistent, and adopt common-sense laws that save lives and money.

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