Safety should be our choice, no one else’s
Published: Wednesday, June 14th, 2006
Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident Monday is sure to get safety advocates fired up about mandatory helmet laws. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback wasn’t wearing a helmet when he broke his jaw and nose in the well-publicized accident. Had Roethlisberger, 24, been wearing a helmet, his injuries likely would have been much less severe. Pennsylvania law doesn’t require those riding motorcycles to wear helmets. Believers in government protecting people from themselves are already pointing this out. Roethlisberger’s celebrity gives big-government champions a name to go with their cause of government nannying the rest of us a little more. But the real message should be that Big Ben made a personal choice and now he has to live with the consequences. We agree it’s a wise idea for people to wear helmets on motorcycles for safety’s sake. But, along with wearing helmets on motorcycles, people also should exercise regularly, avoid smoking and eat only nutritious foods — in moderate quantities. It really isn’t up to us to decide whether you wear a helmet every time you get on a motorcycle. It shouldn’t be up to the government to decide either. Roethlisberger knew the risks of riding a motorcycle — Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. missed last season after tearing knee ligaments in a motorcycle accident — and Roethlisberger knew the risks of doing so without a helmet. Steelers head coach Bill Cowher spoke to Roethlisberger about safe riding after Winslow’s accident. Former Steelers great Terry Bradshaw also made a point of telling the young quarterback, “Ride it when you retire.” The NFL’s standard player contract prohibits any activity that involves “significant risk of injury” apart from football, but many prominent athletes choose to ride motorcycles despite the risk and possible salary loss, The Associated Press reported. Perhaps Roethlisberger did risk a lot by getting on a motorcycle. We believe the risk was his to take. He risked even more by doing so without a helmet. Again, that was his call. A seven-hour surgery doesn’t seem like being lucky, but lucky is truly what Roethlisberger is. Consider how close his career — perhaps even his life — could have been cut short in that accident. Roethlisberger is on top of the NFL. He became the youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl, doing so last February at the age of 23. This was in his second year as a pro. Who knows? Maybe when this is all done he will publicly tout the benefits of wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. But hopefully we won’t hear him or others tout the need for a mandatory helmet law. There is a big difference.
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