Monday, July 4, 2011

Irony: 101

If this didn't cost someone his life, I would have been rolling on the floor when I read this:

from the Associated Press

Police say a motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died after he flipped over the bike's handlebars and hit his head on the pavement.

The accident happened Saturday afternoon in the town of Onondaga, in central New York near Syracuse.
State troopers tell The Post-Standard of Syracuse that 55-year-old Philip A. Contos of Parish, N.Y., was driving a 1983 Harley Davidson with a group of bikers who were protesting helmet laws by not wearing helmets.

You can read the rest here.

I live in a no-helmet-law state (Pennsylvania). It's not easy being a motorcyclist here. When I have conversations with folks here about riding motorcycles, I frequently get someone glaring at me with the 'organ donor' face. It's as if they're having one last look at me before I meet some untimely fate on The Schuylkill Expressway; like I have some kind of death wish.

The culture of motorcycling here is under substantial stress due to the frequency and severity of motorcycling incidents, especially those involving head injuries. A University of Pittsburgh study done in 2008 found a 32% increase in head injury deaths and a 42% increase in head injury hospitalizations in the two years after Pennsylvania repealed its universal helmet law in 2003. This increase happened in spite of the growing number of motorcycles on the roads.

You can read the study here.

Now, imagine there's a gang of people in your city who look like Nick Nolte. If you befriend any of these folks, there is a possibility s/he might take a picture of your junk and put it on the internet. Now, some people will simply choose not to make friends with a Nick Nolte; they'll be pretty safe. But others will remember his work in Paris, je t'aime or Affliction and think, "Well, Nick Nolte can't be that bad, can he? I mean, he's a halfway decent actor and an interesting guy. Let me see what he's about." All of a sudden, the government makes clothing optional in your town, and now these Nick Noltes are snapping 32% more junk this year than they did last year. They're able to defame 32% more people on the internet, that means more people getting fired, or ostracized, or even arrested for indecency in cyberspace. If that happens year after year, then you're simply going to start fearing, dismissing, or hating everyone who looks like Nick Nolte.

That what happens when helmet laws are defeated. The general population develops an ever-growing and illogical fear of motorcycling due to feats of ignorance and Darwinism, which leaves the careful ones to bear the criticism. Personally, I'm growing impatient with the view of motorcycling in this place. I shouldn't need to reconcile my choice to ride based on someone else's lack of judgement or preparation.

If I'm still living here when the helmet law debate comes up again, I'm getting on the front line of that fight. A declining mortality rate makes everything easier. It certainly would have for Mr. Contos.


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