Unfortunately, young males (the group that experiences the highest rates of serious injury) often resist behavioral change. When voluntary acceptance of a countermeasure of proven effectiveness is poor, compliance can be increased by making the countermeasure compulsory. The impact of "mandatory use" laws can be impressive. A study of Michigan's child safety seat law revealed that injuries declined 25 percent after passage of the law. 11 The 55-mph speed limit was estimated to have saved 2000 to 4000 lives annually. Raising the minimum age to purchase alcohol in 26 states decreased nighttime fatal crashes by an average of 13 percent.12 After Victoria, Australia enacted legislation to make bicycle helmet use compulsory for all cyclists, rates of helmet use rose from 31 to 75 percent. During the same period, the number of insurance claims from bicyclists killed or injured after sustaining a head injury decreased by 70 percent. 13
Community education and visible enforcement are needed to obtain maximal benefit from mandatory use laws. In Elmira, New York, an enforcement and publicity campaign promoting the state's seat belt law boosted compliance rates from 49 to 77 percent. Four months later, the rate of use sagged to 66 percent, but rebounded to 80 percent during a reminder campaign.14
Mandatory use laws are effective, but they are difficult to enact. People are quite willing to support measures limiting the ability of others to injure them but resist measures intended to protect them from their own actions. Speed limits, drunk driving laws, and measures to ban the carrying of weapons on commercial aircraft enjoy broad-based support, but mandatory seat belt laws, motorcycle helmet laws, and gun control are less popular. Mandatory use laws often engender spirited resistance from a vocal minority that view these laws as an infringement of "personal freedom."
Political backlash can block legislation or lead to the repeal of a successful law. Despite overwhelming evidence that motorcycle helmet laws save lives, 26 states repealed their statutes when federal incentives were relaxed in 1976. In these states, motorcycle crash fatality rates increased 40 percent. 15
Opponents of mandatory use laws argue that individuals should be permitted to ignore sound safety policies if the level of risk is acceptable to them. Unfortunately, the circle of harm extends far beyond the victim. Motorcyclists and bicyclists who ride without a helmet face an increased risk of serious head injury or death. When such individuals are killed or disabled in a crash, families and loved ones lose companionship, dependents lose their principal source of financial support, employers lose productivity, and society is required to cover the expense of care. All of us, either directly or indirectly, bear the costs of preventable injury.
Was this article helpful?
This guide will help millions of people understand this condition so that they can take control of their lives and make informed decisions. The ebook covers information on a vast number of different types of neuropathy. In addition, it will be a useful resource for their families, caregivers, and health care providers.