The 40 Year Debate; Are Mandatory Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws Right or Wrong? Across the United States, every year millions of license drivers choose to ride motorcycles rather than drive automobiles for a variety of reasons; Reasons range from individual pleasure to a much more cost effective way to travel. The universal motorcycle helmet law debate over the past forty years has revolved around whether the federal government should adopt a universal helmet law that mandates all motorcyclists to wear helmets at all times when riding to reduce societies economic cost, or whether the individual rider should have the right to choose rather to wear or not wear a helmet. In 1967, nearly all States implemented a mandatory universal helmet law in order to receive federal funds to repair and improve our Interstate Highways. Once the 1966 National Highway Safety Act was imposed, the history of motorcycle helmet legislation began. Americans have continuously debated over the balance between an individual’s rights, the best interest of the public and when the government should take measures to protect the people of the United States from harm. Four out of five Americans are in support of a universal helmet law, yet motorcyclists represent only about two percent of all registered vehicles in the United States (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2008). This suggest that a majority of supporters are either not motorcycle owners and/or seemed to have taken a utilitarianism cost and benefits analysis approach, which according to Michael Sandel “many argue, that a weakness in utilitarianism is that it fails to respect individual rights.” Supporters believe that wearing a motorcycle helmet protects riders’ by preventing serious head injuries and lowers mortality rates, which results in society saving an immense deal of economic cost, such as taxes, insurance premiums and government funded healthcare expenses. Non-supporters, including myself a
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