Pennsylvania got rid of its universal motorcycle helmet law in 2003. Riders over the age of 21 with two years experience or safety training can choose to wear a helmet.
Democrat Dan Frankel says this was a terrible mistake in public policy. Since that time, motorcycle accident deaths and head injuries have gone up sharply. A 2008 study found a 32 percent increase in head injury deaths and a 42 percent increase in head injury-related hospitalizations. 2010 saw 4016 motorcycle crashes in Pennsylvania, with 233 fatalities.
So now, Frankel wants to turn back time. He just introduced legislation that would return helmet laws to were they were before 2003, mandating all riders to once again protect their heads.
Dr. Guy Fried witnesses the devastating effect of brain injuries from motorcycle accidents at Magee Rehabilitation in Philadelphia.
“You can have a head injury where the person is comatose or in a vegetative state for the rest of their life,” said Fried. “Or you can have someone who is dazed and confused and needs quite a bit of rehabilitation to reorient them, or relearn how to walk or how to think.”
And the enormous cost for that care, says representative Frankel is typically picked up by taxpayers since many riders don’t have health insurance or long-term care insurance.
But still, many riders insist wearing a helmet should remain their choice. Gene “Gino” Kradzinski of G-Team motorcycles in Philadelphia was severely injured in a helmet-less crash as a teen. Now, as a seasoned rider, he says he knows best when a helmet is needed.
“Highway? Helmet. My kids on the back? Helmet. My wife? Helmet! If I’m going around the block or running to Dunkin Donuts – I don’t need a helmet.”
He says the existing legislation is fair, and police should do more to enforce the existing rules regarding young riders.
The proposed legislation has been sent to the transportation committee in Harrisburg, but Frankel says he is not overly optimistic it will pick up much support.