As of Aug. 28, Missouri stripped its requirement for motorcycle riders to wear helmets. A little more than a week later, a Kansas City man was killed in a motorcycle wreck.
KMBC-9 News reported Ricky L. Childers, 64, was riding a red-and-black Harley Davidson when he failed to negotiate a curve and was thrown from his motorcycle. He was not wearing a helmet.
In Columbia, local resident Ricky Reeves was killed Sept. 5 on Interstate 70.
The two were among the first Missouri motorcyclists killed while legally not wearing helmets.
The push to do away with the state's helmet law was at least two decades in the making, and a push that we've long opposed. The new law states riders can go without helmets if they are 26 or older. They also must have insurance providing medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a motorcycle wreck.
Supporters framed the issue as one of personal choice. Government, they said, shouldn't stand in the way of letting people make their own decisions, for better or for worse.
Even after Reeves' death, his widow, Leslie Reeves, told the Columbia Missourian: "Honestly, I feel like it is the person's choice. I know that my husband was killed. I definitely feel like riders should have the ability to make that choice for themselves. At least he died doing something that he loved."
That shows how passionate people are about personal freedoms.
To an extent, we agree. But we have argued, and continue to argue, that the personal decision to wear a helmet doesn't just affect the rider. It affects society as a whole.
The law requires riders to have insurance but not all do. That means if uninsured motorcycle riders sustain brain injuries in a wreck because they didn't wear a helmet, hospitals — and ultimately taxpayers — may have to pick up the medical bills.
In theory, when a helmet-less rider gets in a wreck, his insurance will pick up the often-pricey hospital bill. However, insurance companies will spread that increased cost among the rest of us through vehicle insurance premiums. Plus, our tax money will sometimes pick up the tab through Medicaid.
For now, our arguments against the law are moot points. All we can do is to tell motorcyclists helmets are proven to increase your chances of survival during a wreck.
We ask all motorcyclists to make the right personal choice for them and their loved ones: Wear a helmet.