by Tom P.

Senator Lautenberg, I want to thank you for saving me from myself. Apparently, I am not as intelligent as you when it comes to riding a motorcycle. I am 60 now and have been riding cycles since age 14 and have never worn a helmet.  Since you are advocating a national policy on mandatory helmet usage, you must have more experience than I do. Would you share with the nation how many years you have been riding motorcycles and how helmets have provided safety to you?

If you didn’t get your wisdom from experience, then where do you get your information? I noticed in your letter to all of the state governors that you said “…some researchers…” have found (helmets) to reduce risk by as much as 50%. I am just a humble average college teacher who has a little training in research methods. Students are encouraged to question research for bias and to test for validity and reliability. Would you provide the names of the researchers you quoted and for whom they work.? I trust they are not associated with any motorcycle helmet manufacturer or motorcycle manufacturer lobbyist who might have contributed to your political campaign.

While on the topic of research, facts and statistics, I am confused about what you are saying or what you meant in your letter to the governors. Your first paragraph says “…ALMOST (emphasis mine) half of these deaths involve riders who are not wearing helmets.” I think a reasonable person (US Supreme Court term) could conclude that since there were more motorcycle deaths with helmets than without, helmets are more likely to cause motorcycle deaths. What you actually are telling us is that we are safer without helmets. Since you are smarter and wiser than I, guess I should continue to ride without a helmet. First you say we should wear motorcycle helmets, then you say it is safer without them. Which one do you mean?

One more fact you quote is the total number of motorcycle deaths in 2005 was 14% more than in 2004. I am just an average college teacher who isn’t as smart as you, but research and statistical inferences/conclusions are not made on raw numbers. Maybe my graduate school professor was wrong when he said that rate is a better gauge or indicator of variance. It is possible for raw numbers to go up, but rate actually decrease. If there are 5 bank robberies in a community of 100,000 one year and 9 bank robberies in that same community that has grown to 200,000 population, it appears that the robberies have almost doubled. Actually, the robbery rate decreased: 5/100,000 vs. 9/200,000.

Mr. Lautenberg, I was going to again thank you for saving me from myself but I’m not convinced you have made any compelling argument. Maybe you should direct your intentions elsewhere to such issues and reports:

  1. You are more likely to die while under a doctor’s care than in a motorcycle accident;
  2. Parachutes should be mandatory on all commercial airlines in case of an emergency;
  3. Drivers of cars without airbags should have to wear helmets and chest padding;
  4. Convenience Store clerks should have to wear bulletproof vests;
  5. Obesity related deaths are higher than motorcycle fatalities and cost the nation $7.7 billion dollars in health care costs (outlaw potato chips, candy, pizza, etc);
  6. A high percentage of individuals over 80 (your age category) suffer from dementia and Alzheimers, therefore everyone over 80 should not be put in positions of trust to make decisions. They can’t remember what decisions they made or why they made them.

A “reasonable person” could conclude that you were inconsistent in your message  to the governors: Helmets reduce the risk of death but then you imply that helmets cause fatalities. Since you are smarter than I am, which position should I follow?

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