Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I don't know why motorcyclists don't wear helmets.

It's theoretically summer here in Maine, although the heat kicked on again last night, and today's high temperature is not supposed to break 60F.

Summer in Maine has many distinguishing characteristics, and among the most notable is the sound of motorcycle engines. I don't know the percentage of Maine citizens who own motorcycles, but it's high; people who don't seem to be able to afford anything else (such as a neighbor of mine who hasn't held a job in the time I've lived here) still keep a motorcycle in addition to their cars.

It's not so surprising, I guess. Summer here is so short and intense that everyone goes a little nuts. Yesterday could not have been a more spectacular day: sunshine, blue skies, temperatures in the low 70s. It was a perfect day for tooling around on a motorcycle, and I saw several doing so with the wind in their hair.

Yes, the wind in their hair. Maine doesn't have a helmet law, and every attempt to pass one meets with near-hysterical opposition. Motorcyclists rally on the steps of the state Capitol, wearing t-shirts that say "Let Those Who Ride, Decide."

This would be fine, except that people don't automatically die of traumatic brain injuries any more. Maine has an excellent LifeFlight program that swoops in to rescue those who are mangled in motor vehicle accidents, and the odds of surviving a crash are better than they've ever been. Thus, those who might once have been organ donors live on, many with permanent brain damage. Good deal, huh?

Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. But really: why does Maine enforce a seatbelt law for motorists when it doesn't require helmets for motorcyclists? I'd argue that the seatbelt law is even more of a violation of personal liberty, especially now that most cars have airbags.

The good news about today's bad weather is that it should wash away some of the pollen that's been clogging my head. That's bound to improve my mood. Isn't it?

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