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This section looks at the ethical and philosophical rationales that both sides in the helmet debate offer to support their positions.
Autonomy is generally understood to mean the freedom and ability to be self-governing or to make personal decisions without undue influence or interference from others.
West Virginia certainly has not been alone in considering whether to overturn its helmet legislation.
Since the first universal helmet laws were enacted in 1967, 31 states have repealed their related laws, most recently Michigan in 2012.
However, when the “others” are those with whom the rider is in a primary relationship, it may be more compelling to consider an “ethics of care framework,” in which motorcycle riders would have a duty to consider how their behaviors affect their loved ones and may even require riders to suppress their own desires in order to reduce harm to others, especially dependents, such as children and elderly parents.
This article examines the data regarding the effectiveness of mandatory motorcycle helmet laws and looks at the legal and ethical concerns surrounding them.
In a meta-analysis of the evidence-based literature, Mac Leod, Di Giacomo, and Tinkoff reviewed 45 articles and noted that from a public safety perspective, helmet use in motorcycle riders reduces overall death rates, the incidence of lethal head injury, and the number of non-lethal head injuries.
The risk of morbidity and mortality of helmetless motorcycle riding provides persuasive evidence for helmet use, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data concerning the cost to the general public provides support for mandatory helmet laws. “In 2010, approximately billion was saved as a result of helmet use in the U.
However, in 2009, a group out of Michigan State University, East Lansing, published a study that suggests that the repeal of mandatory helmet laws may result in societal benefits.
The researchers claim that when states repeal helmet laws “organ donations due to motor vehicle accidents increase by 10 percent,” and because helmetless motorcyclists tend to be young and healthy, their organs may be more viable for transplantation.