Here Comes the Helmet Law

September 27, 1992

NTC Attention, all motorcyclists: Don your helmets!

Starting next Thursday, it could cost unwary motorcyclists $50 every time they fail to put on safety helmets before taking their vehicles out for a spin. Maryland's revived helmet law goes into effect on that day, with a $50 citation imposed on those who break the law.

Drivers should know that state and local police chiefs say they'll enforce the law -- vigorously. "If you're not wearing a helmet, expect to meet a state trooper," warns Larry Tolliver, the state police superintendent. No first-time warnings.

All of the states surrounding Maryland -- and 24 states overall -- have motorcycle helmet laws, and for good reason. Maryland, too, once had such a law, but pressure from motorcyclists demanding freedom of choice proved too much for state lawmakers, who caved in and repealed the measure in 1979. It proved a deadly mistake.

Statistics show that motorcyclists are 20 times more likely to die in a crash than someone riding in an automobile, and head injury is the leading cause of death for bikers. Without a helmet, cyclists have virtually no chance of averting serious injury in an accident when their heads come in contact with the unyielding roadway.

It is such a common-sense practice that it is difficult to fathom why all motorcyclists don't already wear helmets as a safety precaution. Those who now refuse to obey the law out of stubbornness or protest, or those who are foolish enough to wear cheap plastic-and-foam helmets that won't provide much protection in a crash, are playing a potentially lethal game. Forget about the $50 fine: All of us need to take driving more seriously. We should take every conceivable precaution. For motorcyclists, that means wearing safety helmets. It could prove to be a life-saving step.

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