January 8, 1998 in City

Just Accept It That People Assume Risks

Rowland Nethaway Cox News Service
 

There’s nothing like a couple of high-profile skiing deaths to enliven Americans who want to regulate or outlaw all risky behavior.

Just as sure as God made little green apples, you could count on hearing safety nannies on Tuesday-morning airhead news talking about the need to require helmets on skiers.

Death, taxes and safety nannies will always be with us. The helmets-for-life brigade was with us in fulsome silliness within hours of the news that Congressman Sonny Bono was killed Monday afternoon after he skied into a tree at the Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Bono, who years ago was half of the Sonny and Cher singing duo, was not wearing a helmet when he veered off a ski trail on the Upper Orion slope and smacked into a tree.

Bono’s death followed by days that of Michael Kennedy of the famous Kennedy clan. He also was killed when he skied into a tree while horsing around with family members on an Aspen, Colo., ski slope.

Like Bono, Kennedy was not wearing a helmet when his head smashed into a tree.

So, there you have it. What more proof do people need? Immediately urge your local, state and national lawmakers to make it mandatory for all skiers to wear government-approved helmets whenever they strap on a pair of skis. In the case of snowboarders, make that one short, fat ski.

No matter what the cost to skiers, no matter what the expense in government growth, no matter what infringement on individual liberties, if just one life can be saved … yadda, yadda, yadda.

Safety nannies overlook the fact that both Michael Kennedy and Sonny Bono were experienced skiers who understood the risks of skiing and were familiar with the slopes where they died.

The Kennedys skied for decades on the slopes around Aspen. They invented the dangerous game they were playing when Michael hit the tree.

Bono was a good athlete and a frequent skier on the slopes at Heavenly Ski Resort for more than 20 years.

The two men understood the risks they took on the ski slopes and chose to take them anyway, which is a point lost on safety nannies who think the world is a better place when freedom of choice is replaced by government safety regulations. It’s all for the greater good, of course, because Americans are far too stupid to understand the consequences of the risks they choose to take.

Skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers should be able to wear helmets, body armor, parachutes or string bikinis if they want. It should be their decision, however, not the decision of the government.

The work of safety nannies is never done. Americans must be saved from themselves.

Consider the report from Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working on regulations to require safety belts, headlights, tail lights and turn signals on golf carts. Air bags and mandatory helmets surely will follow.

Since more people get killed slipping in the bathtub than on the ski slopes, surely, mandatory helmets for bathers will be a future target for America’s safety-nanny class.

The helmets-for-everyone crowd often uses the public-burden argument to justify the abridgment of personal freedoms. People without sufficient financial resources or medical insurance can become a public burden if they sustain head injuries. The argument assumes that this happens a lot and that wearing a helmet would prevent it.

That argument is routinely exaggerated. But if taxes are what really motivates safety nannies, then the government should either outlaw all risky behavior or make it as risky as possible. Dead people do not become public burdens.

The argument should be the right of people to choose the risks they want to take.

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