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Freedom riders.

Jacob Sullum's story of motorcyclists successfully fighting helmet laws ("Freedom Riders," November) brought a smile to my face.

Arizona had a helmet law. The motorcyclists gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot, and it was repealed.

In a subsequent unrelated matter, the legislature, infuriated at voters for passing a medical marijuana exemption, passed laws overturning the will of the voters. Voters responded by passing an initiative that took away the legislature's power to override voter-passed initiatives. So now when the Insurance Institute comes bribing them to pass a helmet law, legislators can only shrug.

Finally, the state Capitol where the legislature meets lies in a traffic circle. Whenever the local motorcycle clubs perceive a law being introduced that is detrimental to their cause, many hundreds of motorcyclists show up, dressed in their finest gun-toting apparel, and circle the building, revving their engines. Imagine holding a fundraiser and having this club show up to "support" your re-election. The message is received like no other, and the bill dies in committee.

As an activist said, "If you aren't having fun, you are doing something wrong."

Powell Gammill

Phoenix, AZ

I am all in favor of people making their own mistakes when only they suffer the consequences. But when I pay for those mistakes, it becomes my business too. When people are injured in accidents, not only law enforcement but medical services spring into action, paid for by taxes and insurance. There is plenty of good evidence that helmets and seat belts greatly reduce these costs.

When I lived in Kenya in the early 1970s, I met a young Kenyan doctor, working in a state-run hospital, who lamented that he spent all his time patching up victims of road accidents instead of preventing or curing other ailments. Every person who does not wear a seat belt is imposing a cost on others: the part of the expected extra cost of accidents that is covered by public services or private insurance.

When I see motorcyclists lying at the roadside like deer, raccoons, and other road kill, I may decide that they made their own bad choices and that it is none of my business. Then again, I may decide that I would rather live in a more humane country, one which provides some public services and then imposes reasonable regulations to minimize their cost.

Bernard Wasow

Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation

Washington, D.C.

Because of a congenital birth defect and the limits of transplantation, I have been blessed with the need for not one, not two, but now three kidneys via transplant. Thrill-seeking motorcyclists provide a continuing source of organs for folks like me. I live in Michigan, which has about a four-year average wait for a transplant. Ohio, without a helmet law, has about an 18-month average wait.

Live free and die, I say.

James W. Govert

Ann Arbor, MI
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Govert, James W.
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Previous Article:Run Away, Jury!
Next Article:Zoned out: taking the Amish to court.

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