The recent rash of motorcycle accidents and tragic loss of life reported in the Poteau Daily News has made me think again about Oklahoma’s helmet laws.
There seems to be an unwritten rule of the universe: if a person rides a motorcycle for 30 years, he will crash. And we do all acknowledge if a person flies through the air, he needs head protection when he lands. It doesn’t really matter then if he’s 18 or 21 or 59, male or female, riding in Tulsa or Los Angeles or a back road of LeFlore County.
I did not always support legislation that demands people be safe. I remember being forced to wear a helmet before I was 18. It was hot and squashed my hairdo. I remember the freedom of riding around unfettered, letting my hair fly in the wind and getting bugs in my eyes. I also remember wearing shorts and tank tops on the back of my husband’s bike, trying to get a tan, with never a thought about losing skin.
I grew up; I saw friends get mangled on the highway. My husband now won’t take me around the block without a helmet, face guard, gloves, jacket and jeans. I don’t try to tan my white skin anymore either because I don’t want the melanoma that plagued some of my relatives. I have a new perspective.
I suppose I’m less self-centered than when I was a kid. I don’t just think about my freedoms, but about my responsibilities. My friends and family don’t need the grief. The public doesn’t need my hospital bill or disability burden.
As I get older, I also think more about pain. Some of it seems to be inevitable but I try to avoid as much of it as I can, while still having fun in white water, through blue skies and on crystal beaches.
I’ve changed my views about other things also. I think pets should be neutered; pesticides do more harm than good; Planned Parenthood doesn’t help plan a family; not all Democrats are Liberals and blueberries taste better than nachos. It’s all about taking in life experiences and being willing to admit I was mistaken about some things.
Now I wear a helmet when I ride a Segway down the sidewalk. And the state didn’t even have to make a law to convince me.
Janet Short is a freelance columnist writing for the Poteau Daily News. A former Poteau resident, she now writes from north Texas and can be contacted by sending an email to: ShortTakesOnLife@gmail.com .