Great editorial questioning why we need laws to “protect” us from ourselves.

Besides, as many of you know, the effectiveness of most safety gear is less successful than the laws requiring the gear.

An editorial in the Sacramento Bee titled Editorial Notebook: Do we need laws to end every kind of risk?, upports California Governor Jerry Brown’s vetoing a law that would have fined parents for allowing their children to ski without a helmet. (See California bill to require helmets on skiers and boarders under age 18 dies lacking governor’s signature.) The Governor vetoed the bill with this statement: “Not every human problem deserves a law.”

The editorial looks at the entire issue from several different perspectives. The writer first looks at the proliferation of laws applying to Californians.

In California, bicyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear helmets. But it doesn’t stop at bicycles. Skateboarders, in-line skaters and scooter riders are required by law to wear helmets, too, if they are under 18.
Even bike passengers under the age of 5 have to wear helmets.
In New Mexico, tricycle riders are required to wear helmets – really, tricycle riders!

The author then states that the laws are just creating a nation of wimps.

Have we become a nation of wimps, so risk-averse we have created protective gear for every potential mishap, no matter how remote? Worse, we’ve written laws that force us into this perpetual defensive crouch.

The author blames many different groups of people for the unnecessary laws.

I can’t tell if it’s the insurance industry that’s pushing it or the trial lawyers trawling for someone to sue or just nervous parents with their single precious progeny. I suspect a bit of all three.

Nor does he let the media escape the blame.

There’s another culprit in all this: the media. We provide blanket coverage of every tragedy. Every crime, every accident, particularly when a child is involved, is endlessly reported on, blown out of proportion. In ways subtle and not so subtle, we tell parents – and by extension our children – be afraid, be very afraid.

I agree with the media statement. Growing up I had access to one newspaper. It printed what occurred in the Nation, the world, Ohio, the local county and sports. There was no room, nor need for an article on a skiing accident in California or a kayaking death in Maine. It did not matter; those were local issues for those local newspapers. Now we get news thrown at us from around the world with the same importance as the hometown city council meeting, and we are expected to show the same concern.

I am as guilty of that as any other media outlet. I find tragedies and lawsuits and post them on my Facebook page regularly. The article has me thinking. Is my audience narrow enough, industry people, that I’m not creating problems?

The author’s final issue is do we need all the protective gear?

When I was a kid, not every accident was grounds for a lawsuit. When I was a kid, playgrounds, toys and athletic equipment were not cluttered with warning signs written by insurance companies to protect against liability. 

Combine all these issues and the author makes valid points. Add to that the effectiveness of current helmets used in recreational sports, and the entire argument falters. Add to that the issue that mandatory helmet laws reduce participation. See A father of a deceased skier pushing for a helmet law in New Jersey.

Do Something

Go to the website, read the article and support comments like this. You can also like the article on Facebook.
See Do we need laws to end every kind of risk?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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