Missouri Helmet Law Repeal?
I meant to write about this a few weeks ago when I first heard about it. Earlier this month, a Senate panel endorsed a bill to repeal Missouri’s mandatory helmet law.
This is one of those examples of a law designed to “protect Missourians from themselves.” Would I ride a motorcycle without a helmet? Absolutely not, are you crazy? But should I be allowed to? Yes.
Opponents argue that the law’s repeal will result in more highway deaths, possibly increasing taxpayer-funded health care costs and driving up insurance premiums.
I used to hold that insurance belief as well, until I looked into the evidence a little more. From what I’ve read, there is only weak evidence that seat belt and helmet laws decrease highway fatalities, and mixed evidence that safety device laws actually cause more erratic driving (potentially offsetting the decrease in premium costs).
The insurance argument is evoked a lot, and several state supreme courts have upheld the argument. To the best of my knowledge, however, there is no empirical connection between helmet laws and insurance premiums absent some circumstantial studies about long-term effects. I would also argue that the numbers most often cited are one-sided, focused on the cost of helmet repeal alone. They don’t address the cost borne by society for enforcement and installation of “mandated safety devices” such as airbags, etc. that taxpayers and individuals incur already (think of all those seatbelt law commercials and the amount of time police officers are forced to spend enforcing such laws rather than, say, preventing violent crimes).
So I could go either way on this. If the law does in fact lower taxpayer costs, then I might find it justified. I tend to believe, however, that the law’s primary intent is simply to “protect us from ourselves.”