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Exponent view -- Feb. 3

State bikers need to use their heads

The bikers of West Virginia are at it again. They want to repeal legislation that created the motorcycle helmet law.

We, however, don't think they are using their heads.

Not only is it silly to even think about repealing this law because of the health factors, it's also politically naive.

This isn't a new issue at the state Legislature. Two years ago, leather clad bikers attended the final day of the session. They crammed inside the Senate galleries, but they were only taking up space. The repeal effort didn't work.

They've even tried circling around the capitol on their motorcycles. But that hasn't worked. This time, Delegate Greg Butcher, D-Logan, who is also a biker, said he intends to have motorcyclists at the state Legislature every day of the session to try to lobby lawmakers to repeal the law.

The law, according to Russ Anderson of American Bikers Aim Toward Education, discriminates against motorcyclists. We work and pay taxes like everyone else, he said.

And all the other people have to strap on seat belts when they head out on the highway in their four-door sedans. These rules are made for a reason. They save lives.

And the majority of taxpayers who don't have motorcycles donut want to be stuck paying higher medical and insurance rates because of motorcycle injuries. It has been proven that wearing helmets cuts down on medical costs and insurance by reducing motorcycle fatalities and injuries.

But convincing the motorcyclists who support the repeal that the law is needed is almost impossible. That's why we're just glad that our delegates, like Barbara Warner, D-Harrison, and our senators, like Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, aren't going to let this repeal effort go anywhere. They've already said so.

We'd encourage motorcyclists of the state to give up the fight and start using their heads. It's a political game they can't win and a fight that could have deadly consequences.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Telegram view -- Feb. 3

Helmet law requirement one of common sense, not personal freedom

Motorcyclists are trying again to repeal the state's helmet law. They argue that it is a question of personal freedom. We disagree. We say it is a question of common sense.

West Virginia has had a helmet law since 1971. Bills introduced in the House of Delegates and state Senate last week would repeal that law. Under House Bill 2403 and Senate Bill 237, motorcyclists who are over 18 and who have had driver's licenses for more than two years would not have to wear helmets.

Russ Anderson of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education says repeal of the helmet law will attract more motorcycle-riding tourists to West Virginia. He also says his group can disprove any arguments that the repeal of the helmet law would increase motorcycle injuries and deaths.

That is hard to believe. We think state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, has the right idea. He wants an analysis of increased medical costs that state taxpayers may end up covering if the helmet law is repealed. That would be a direct economic consequence of helmet repeal.

There would also be indirect economic consequences. In health care today, every added expense sends ripples throughout the system. If emergency room expenses for treatment of head trauma skyrocket in West Virginia, you can be sure health-care costs overall, along with health insurance premiums, will not be far behind.

Finally, motorcyclists argue that the helmet law discriminates against them, limiting their personal freedom.

That's true, up to a point. But the fact is that we all give up small personal freedoms every day for public safety. To make our highways safer, we have given up the freedom to drive on the left side of the road, we have given up the freedom to drive as fast as we want and we have even given up the freedom to drive without seat belts.

The state is not asking too much when it asks motorcyclists  for public safety  to give up the "freedom" of riding without helmets. On this issue, the cry for personal freedom has to be answered with common sense. West Virginia should keep its helmet law.

Tim Langer

Telegram Editorial Board member

Bob-n-Along for Feb. 3, 1999

Since I couldn't get online, I got a little bit outta' line

I've been on the Internet now for a little less than two weeks, yet already I'm blazing my own trail of glory. On Sunday in Bob-n-Along, I had mentioned that a simple discrepancy of one letter resulted in my sending a message to a perfect stranger out there in cyberspace. (I still intend to learn who the "lucky" recipient of that message was.)

But here's the latest: Saturday morning I heard my wife, Nadine, on the phone laughing about her inability to get signed on-line. Rubbing my eyes 90 minutes earlier than I'm accustomed to rising on a Saturday morning, I wanted to be the hero, so I said, I'll get you signed on.

Hmmm! No can do!

Well, for those who may be familiar with America On Line (AOL)  or any other on-line service, for that matter  the very first item of business, of course, is for that service to learn how you intend to pay for it. (It's a lot like a visit to a hospital emergency department, although this wasn't exactly an emergency.)

We took care of that  at least I thought we had on the evening of Jan. 20, by typing in the name, city, state and transit number of my bank, followed by my name, address and checking account number. Back on Jan. 20, we were immediately able to go on-line.

Ten days later it's a different story. As soon as we clicked onto our short-cut to AOL, after about 20 seconds of technical jargon flashing across the screen, we heard the words "GOOD-bye." I regarded this with the same spirit that I would had I just phoned a friend, only to hear him say the same word before I could get a second word out of my mouth.

To make a short story long, I phoned AOL first to discover what happened. After listening to all movements of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and The Flight of the Bumblebee while waiting, I finally heard a real person's voice, which explained that my bank's data didn't agree with what we typed in Jan. 20. Then, when I called my bank, someone there told me the bank had recently changed its transit number. Of course, it didn't match the one on my check. Then I was told my personal checking account number wasn't the same. DUH-HUH! It was the same for 10 days, wasn't it?!

As I alternated phone calls between AOL and my bank, the temperature in my collar region had risen significantly and my wife, the nurse, took my blood pressure. The systolic (bottom) figure reached 105, if that tells you anything.

My loving spouse suggested a nice, quiet drive through the countryside into town, which I agreed to do. Upon our return home, I suggested that this time she should make the next call, as I was certain the phone line between AOL and our home was at least partially singed.

She called, and after hearing Dvorak's New World Symphony, she reached a real person, a very accommodating young lady who unlike others at AOL  didn't know the meaning of the word impossible. It took her all of five minutes to determine wherein the problem lay, and  "lucky us!"  we're back in business again.

And my systolic figure is back below 80 again!

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All this taught me something the writer James A. Michener once said: Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Another BobnAlong Friday.

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Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999