It's for your own good?

“If you see a man approaching you with the obvious intent of doing you good, you should run for your life.” – Henry David Thoreau

I stopped riding bikes many years ago, when crash helmets were still optional, so I was surprised when Sen. Bong Revilla said that a barangay in Taguig City was “going against the law” when it passed a resolution banning crash helmets following a crime spree by helmet wearing bikers. The senator had authored the law mandating crash helmets for all motorcycle riders.

I’m not going to take sides in that debate. My concern is with the law that mandates crash helmets. Why is there such a law?

Sec.2 of the law states, “It is hereby declared the policy of the State to secure and safeguard its citizenry, particularly the operators or drivers of motorcycles and their passengers, from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of fatal or life threatening accidents and crashes. Towards this end, it shall secure a more proactive and preventive approach to secure the safety of motorists, their passengers and pedestrians at all times through the mandatory enforcement of the use of standard protective motorcycle helmet.”

It’s pretty obvious that riding a motorcycle on our roads is a dangerous activity but is mandating crash helmets the right way? I don’t think so.

To say that a crash helmet will secure and safeguard bikers from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of accidents and crashes is like saying that adding a filter tip to a cigarette will secure and safeguard smokers from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of tobacco. It just does not address the problem. The way to minimize danger for motorcycle riders is to build roads exclusively for motorcycles.

But I have an even bigger problem with the crash helmet law and that is with the government forcing individuals to do what it thinks is good for them. It encroaches on the freedom and the right of an adult individual to make a choice regarding his own welfare. There are those among us who bike without helmets because they like to feel the wind whip their hair as they race at 200 kilometers an hour on a deserted road, is the government going to tell them you can’t do that because you don’t know what’s good for you?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am for crash helmets. I think they’re good. If I hit a cargo truck head on, the mortician will not have to put my face together. And if I survive the crash because of my helmet, although minus my limbs, I can still learn to play the piano with my nose. But seriously, I say all bikers should wear crash helmets. However, that’s not the same as saying the government should force all bikers to wear one.

There’s another problem with The Motorcycle Act and it does not involve “matters of transcendental importance.” The problem is Sec.4 of the law. It exempts tricycle drivers and their passengers. No explanation is given for the exemption so I have to ask: Does it negate the law’s rationale or is there something about tricycles drivers and their passengers that makes them invulnerable to the dangers private bikers face?

Besides, tricycles are a form of public transportation licensed by the government so why is the government messing with private bikers instead of passing safety regulations for the tricycle industry?

Anyway, following the logic of the Motorcycle Helmet Act was like figuring out the plot of a bad Pinoy action movie starring Bong Revilla.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • Helmets and seatbelts. They are what economists call paternal goods. Your piece is the counter-argument to that.
    Libertarians hate it when governments step in and mandate them. But in truth there are numerous ordinances and laws that are similar. Such as those that limit noise and air pollution, speed limits, prohibitions on the use of tinted windows and so much more.

    • GabbyD

      the difference is that many of the examples you cite have effects on other people (externalities).

      i have to hand it to MB. seatbelts, helmets, etc, have a limited externality argument.

      • UP nn grad

        GabbyD: it is wrong to say that seatbelts and helmets only relate to the person. Now, if Conrado deQuiros while riding a motorcycle or while walking on a sidewalk were to get slammed with bones broken in thirty places and de Quiros died a slow horrible death because it took forty-six minutes before an ambulance arrives, then maybe no one cares. But if it were ManuB to be the victim, there will be a loud clamor for better performance by “governance” because it is such a waste to let ManuB’s brilliant mind to go to waste when he could have been saved if PGH had a helicopter for faster rescue or if there was a special motorcyle-only lane on Villar’s C5 or on the Macapagal Highway. Better performance (be sure it takes 10 minutes or less to get medical assistance to ManuB) will require more expenditures [ which means not until 2015 when Binay is president or in 2017 when Chiz or BongBong becomes president).

        Other solution that Pinas can afford — helmet laws, which ManuB agrees with anyway.

        • GabbyD

          “it is wrong to say that seatbelts and helmets only relate to the person.”

          why? if it affects other people directly, i have yet to see it.

    • Doy,

      Notice in my little essay that I said “It encroaches on the freedom and the right of an adult individual to make a choice regarding his own welfare.”

      That simply an act that concerns him and nobody else.So moise and air pollution, speed limits are there because they affect others. I like those laws. And tinted windows well if they limit driver visibility then they should not be allowed.

      Helmets and seatbelts should be made available and the public should be educated about them. But wearing them is a personal choice because not wearing them does nobody else any harm.

      So to repeat: “I say all bikers should wear crash helmets. However, that’s not the same as saying the government should force all bikers to wear one.”

  • UP nn grad

    The folks owning the Porsches and Lexus see it as motorcycles getting in the way of their cars, they prefer these cycle-dudes and duddettes off the roads they drive on. Like living in gated communities.

    Then, the “Taguig-city” “no-helmets” becomes non-applicable.

    • UP nn grad

      The “Taguig-city — no-helmets, too many assasins are in metroManila and they wear helmets” —- this is an indictment of PNP under UseC Puno.

      Now, this one — a more practical issue.
      QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA — Lawmakers are pushing for the passage of a bill prohibiting children below nine years old from riding motorcycles and tricycles in highways and main thoroughfares.

      Representatives Mary Mitzi Cajayon (2nd District, Caloocan City), Lani Mercado-Revilla (2nd District, Cavite) and Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) all agree that motorcycles, tricycles and other similar modes of transportation are considered unsafe for children.

      CBCP and ManuB just may agree. The parents have the final say on safety-issues for children under 9.

  • UP nn grad

    That highway??? The Federal Highway is safer to use. Reason is simple — the folks riding Porsches, Lexus (armored or not) and Expeditions don’t use that motobike lane. It s not well-maintained; lighting is worse than on main highway, potholes take longer to get patched, the storm grates get stolen more frequently on that motoke-only lane (just like what happens in Sta Cruz, Tondo, and many other areas of metro-Manila).

    • So how many motorcycles in “that highway” get hit by Porsches, Lexus, and Expeditions?

      You see Mr UPN, the problems you cite about “that highway” can be fixed through maintenance. But maintenance is not the issue at hand. The issue is whether or not a roadway exclusively for motorcycles eliminates the problem of bikers being crushed by cars, buses, and cargo trucks.

      So I ask you again, how many motorcycles in “that highway” get hit by Porsches, Lexus, and Expeditions?
      How many?

      • UP nn grad

        It’s working… pro-Malacanang media-practitioner getting discussions away from Buendia-Avenue bombing (so can this happen again in next 4 years?) onto “highways only for motorcycles” (will anybody care if this is made the scum-lowest of the bills when it comes to getting pushed by Noynoy administration)?

        • Bert

          UP n, you’re hinting Malacanang is evading the issue about the Buendia Ave. bus bombing as if Malacanang has anything to do with terrorist bombing when even the most advance nation has even worse of that kind of problem. What’s your problem with Malacanang aside from BFF Puno and Puwit de Lima? Or, is it because of your GMA blinders? Just asking.

          • UP nn grad

            I actually am all bent up with frustration because after Noynoy won with 56% of the votes, then pooof it disappeare that humongous demand for C5-investigations against Villar. Surely, Yellow Army wasn’t just doing a sliming tactic against Villar, was it? I am sure it is just na napagod na… naubusan na ng interest, panalo na, eh. Next battle na lang.

            And I am amazed why Noynoy or even MLQ3 has not mounted a full-charge to investigate something very recent (recent to mean that evidence should still be around) against the illegalities of Le Cirque.

            In addition to 2010 Quirino Grandstand, I even remember the “Who Killed Ninoy????” question and what is Noynoynoy waiting for about PCOS or Macapagal highway or Broadband??? And where is Jonas Burgos, surely by now, Leila de Lima would have quadrupled the efforts to find Jonas Burgos.

        • UPn,

          “It’s working… pro-Malacanang media-practitioner getting discussions away from Buendia-Avenue bombing (so can this happen again in next 4 years?) onto “highways only for motorcycles” (will anybody care if this is made the scum-lowest of the bills when it comes to getting pushed by Noynoy administration)?”

          Pathetic.

  • UP nn grad

    ManuB’s half-assed proposal for a dedicated highway for motorcycle drivers shows why laws are needed.

    And his unwillingness to step into the debate — Taguig – “No motorcycle helmets — assasins on motorcycles” versus motorcycle-law — shows the half-ass-ness of his proposal for a dedicated highway for motorcycle drivers.

    A bigger question is this —- has Pilipinas law-and-order situation gotten much worse? Pinoys-in-Pinas just died when a bomb went off in a bus on Buendia Avenue, what is going on????

    • UP nn grad

      I really shouldn’t have used “half-ass”, that sounds harsh. My writing-style has gotten contaminated by the writings of Pro_inoy-dot-Com writers who write:

      19. Miriam Santiago is a lunatic. She will vote according to the phases of the moon.

      20. Tito Sotto, like Lapid, is clueless. However, unlike Lapid, he does not know it.

      21. Trillanes will vote to convict.

      22. Manny Villar is not Villarroyo for nothing.

      23. Migs Zubiri will say he will vote according to his conscience. Unfortunately he has none.
      —————-
      Mental note to myself : not to use “half-ass” for the next 6 weeks at least.

    • UPnn,

      There is a highway in Kuala Lumpur that has a dedicated roadway for motorcycles. It works very well. If you ever visit the place, take the high way going to petaling jaya and look to your left. You will see motorcycles traveling safely.

      It’s a good idea but it costs money. However, when the time comes that we have as many bikes here as they do there, you are going to be crying for a separate roadway for bikers, not only for their own safety but more importantly because bikers weaving in and out of lanes are a pain in the butt, even if you only have half of one.

  • mario taporco

    The way to minimize danger for motorcycle riders is to build roads exclusively for motorcycles. per manuel buencamino

    I don’t think this will happen on public highways. Here in the United States we have great highways, specially the state i live in, California. Even with a great highways that this state provides, whether it be for your occasional cage dwellers (car drivers that is) or your typical weekend warrior motorcyclist. We all still share the same roads

    But a dedicated track for motorcycles, that, i love to do. Track racing is a rigorous activity, and educating for that matter. First, you have to be an idiot not to wear a helmet in a race circuit. Believe me, I had my share; broken collar bone, and fractured shoulder blades. If wasn’t for the helment, I think I would not have a face to go with it, and I would probably have to scrape my nose off the pavement.

    There goes my piano lesson, as well…,

    True that the government are infringing with their rights, but I do agree that The Philippines needs to establish a better highways, both for the cars drivers and the two wheels adventurist. Potholes don’t cut it.

    A good example of our California highways and byways is the great Central Valley heading toward Yosemite Valley. Highway 120 is a great meandering byways through Yosemite. You can ask any Filipinos thats been there, and they will tell you how awesome it is to drive these backroad country.

    Whether it be on cars, but i prefer motorcycles on the countrysides. That’s just me.

    • Mario,

      There is a roadway for bikers in Malaysia. It is on the way to petaling jaya, a suburb of kuala lumpur.

  • GabbyD

    ” There are those among us who bike without helmets because they like to feel the wind whip their hair as they race at 200 kilometers an hour on a deserted road, is the government going to tell them you can’t do that because you don’t know what’s good for you?”

    unless this deserted road is on a deserted island, then you shouldnt go at 200 km/hr. the sctex speed limit is 100, i think, and thats one of the best, newest roads here.

    • Okay. Let me rewrite that sentence so it meets speed limits.

      There are those among us who bike without helmets because they like to feel the wind whip their hair as they race at 80 KPH ON SCTEX, is the government going to tell them you can;t do that because you don’t know what’s good for you?

  • GabbyD

    “t encroaches on the freedom and the right of an adult individual to make a choice regarding his own welfare”

    so, if u are also in favor of suicide, if an adult wants to kill himself, he should be allowed 2 do so?

    • Bert

      Me, I am not in favor of suicide.

      But, if an adult wants to kill himself, for sufficient reason, of course, he should be allowed to do so. If no sufficient reason, he must be out of his mind, so should be allowed to do suicide just the same.

      Exactly the reason why the Catholic Church gave the sacrament to Gen. Reyes. The CBCP said the good general was out of his mind when he did that, so suicide was allowed. 🙂

    • “f an adult wants to kill himself, he should be allowed 2 do so?”

      If an adult wants to kill himself then that’s his business and nobody else’s. He does not need anybody’s permission to do it.

    • Bert

      “…if an adult wants to kill himself, he should be allowed 2 do so?”

      If he asks permission from me to kill himself, I will ask him how is he gonna do it.

      But I won’t believe he’s gonna do it.