Florida, Helmets and the Paradox
By Kelly Dean
I understand part of Florida’s appeal is the freedom that comes with beautiful weather. It’s easier to get outdoors and enjoy some type of activity, such as the going to the beach, riding your bike, taking a walk or riding your motorcycle. A certain amount of swagger is also present in the types of folks who have that kind of zest for freedom. Many people from up north vacation here just for that reason.
That said, the helmet law is just unfair.
By law, motorcycle helmets are not required in Florida. I’m not saying we should force motorcyclists to wear helmets. I think it is advisable for people to wear them. For Pete’s sake, you’re flinging your body through the air at 60 mph without anything to protect your brain, but I’m not big about passing laws that impinge upon personal choices and such. I don’t think I need protection from my own bad choices if they don’t affect anyone else. And I don’t think a helmeted head flinging through the air is going to do any more property damage to someone else’s car that an un-helmeted head in any given collision – in fact, it’s probably somewhat less, although more messy, I’m sure.
Plus, it can get a bit warm in Florida.
My complaint is about forcing people to wear seat belts in the far more protected environment of an automobile, while allowing motorcyclists to do their head-flinging with reckless abandon. Add to that, they don’t have to wear seat belts on a motorcycle at all! What is that? We should all be free to fling our heads and bodies any way we see fit, so long as we don’t fling our heads and bodies at innocent people. If you do accidentally fling your head at an innocent person, it should be lightweight and looking good.
I was once pulled over by a Florida motorcycle cop for not wearing my seat belt. He was wearing a helmet; I’m sure the department requires it. The lack of fairness was too much to bear. I generally wear my seat belt, but I was making a short trip to the convenience store for Twix (my personal favorite because you get two in every package – sheer genius).
Truth be told, most of the driving was on parking lots. But alas, he was there, looking like a storm trooper in his way-cool sunglasses and matching black leather accoutrement: white on black, way-cool, it’s Florida, baby.
(As an aside, I must say that accoutrement is one of the best words in the whole-wide-world, ever, especially when you say it in syllables and with a French accent: “eh-COO-tray-mah … eh-COO-tray-mah.”) Anyway…
So here’s how the session with the motorcycle officer went:“Hello officer, may I ask why you stopped me?” I said impishly.
“Could I see your license, registration and proof of insurance, please?” I complied. I want to be calm because I’m having serious Twix withdrawal symptoms anyway.
“Yes, sir,” I said gleefully. “Could you tell me why you stopped me?”
“Do you realize you’re not wearing your seat belt?” He said.
“Do you realize you’re also not wearing your seat belt, sir?” When I said this, I was mentally trying to pull the words back into my non-flung head, but it was too late of course. I could almost see them in slow motion flying through the air like the aforementioned noggin.
“There isn’t a seat belt and the law doesn’t require it.” Although, he did manage a slight smile, or wince – hard to tell.
“You do see the paradox, though, right? I mean, you’re totally unprotected and I’m in this cage, so the law is messed up.
“I’m not in the paradox business; I’m in the law business.” Well, I was so impressed with this retort that I didn’t even touch the helmet head-flying-fairness issue with the gentleman. OK, I lie. I couldn’t help myself.
His facial expression changed. I could tell he wanted me in another cage back at the office and I feared I was getting close to this outcome. Odd, police have real cages at their office when it’s just symbolic in other offices.
Florida allows police to pull you over for seat belts, so my cook was goosed, so to speak.
“If your body went flying there’d be nothing to protect your head — or me,” I said. “Yet I have to wear seatbelts in a cage. Where’s the fairness in that.” (I really should have my blood sugar checked because I think I must have an issue with that Twix thing.)
“If my body went flying — that cage wouldn’t protect you, sir.”
Oh, I couldn’t top that one. He was cool as a mango and I wasn’t going push it. I’m not a jerk and I was smiling the whole time. I think he took it in the spirit it was intended. I believe in being respectful to police officers and I wasn’t going to blame some object like a seat belt for my mistake when it was that damn Twix and we all know it.
I am just the champion of fairness in all things.
After two tickets (seems I slow-rolled the stop sign too), I am the wiser person. Although I don’t believe in such protect-you-from-yourself laws, personally, I realize that fairness isn’t always the law of the land, even in Florida – or maybe insurance companies are the law of the land – I digress. Either way, it’s a good thing; otherwise I would have nothing to write about.
So “get your motor runnin’ … head out on the highway,” as Steppenwolf would say. But hold on to your head.