It’s for your own good?

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the February 23, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“If you see a man approaching you with the obvious intent of doing you good, you should run for your life.” – Henry David Thoreau

I stopped riding bikes many years ago, when crash helmets were still optional, so I was surprised when Sen. Bong Revilla said that a barangay in Taguig City was “going against the law” when it passed a resolution banning crash helmets following a crime spree by helmet- wearing bikers. The senator had authored the law mandating crash helmets for all motorcycle riders.

I’m not going to take sides in that debate. My concern is with the law that mandates crash helmets. Why is there such a law?

Sec.2 of the law states, “It is hereby declared the policy of the State to secure and safeguard its citizenry, particularly the operators or drivers of motorcycles and their passengers, from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of fatal or life-threatening accidents and crashes. Towards this end, it shall secure a more proactive and preventive approach to secure the safety of motorists, their passengers and pedestrians at all times through the mandatory enforcement of the use of standard protective motorcycle helmet.”

It’s pretty obvious that riding a motorcycle on our roads is a dangerous activity but is mandating crash helmets the right way? I don’t think so.

To say that a crash helmet will secure and safeguard bikers from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of accidents and crashes is like saying that adding a filter tip to a cigarette will secure and safeguard smokers from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of tobacco. It just does not address the problem. The way to minimize danger for motorcycle riders is to build roads exclusively for motorcycles.

But I have an even bigger problem with the crash helmet law and that is with the government forcing individuals to do what it thinks is good for them. It encroaches on the freedom and the right of an adult individual to make a choice regarding his own welfare.  There are those among us who bike without helmets because they like to feel the wind whip their hair as they race at 200 kilometers an hour on a deserted road, is the government going to tell them you can’t do that because you don’t know what’s good for you?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am for crash helmets. I think they’re good. If I hit a cargo truck head on, the mortician will not have to put my face together. And if I survive the crash because of my helmet, although minus my limbs, I can still learn to play the piano with my nose. But seriously, I say all bikers should wear crash helmets. However, that’s not the same as saying the government should force all bikers to wear one.

There’s another problem with The Motorcycle Act and it does not involve “matters of transcendental importance.” The problem is Sec.4 of the law. It exempts tricycle drivers and their passengers. No explanation is given for the exemption so I have to ask: Does it negate the law’s rationale or is there something about tricycles drivers and their passengers that makes them invulnerable to the dangers private bikers face?

Besides, tricycles are a form of public transportation licensed by the government so why is the government messing with private bikers instead of passing safety regulations for the tricycle industry?

Anyway, following the logic of the Motorcycle Helmet Act was like figuring out the plot of a bad Pinoy action movie starring Bong Revilla.

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