Jaewynn McKay: Time to buckle down and helmet up

Wednesday May 27, 2020 Written by Jaewynn McKay Published in Editorials
Jaewynn McKay is going to have to buy herself a helmet now. 20052607/08 Jaewynn McKay is going to have to buy herself a helmet now. 20052607/08

OPINION: Like me, you might not like the new helmet law, but our MPs have done what we elected them to do. They have made the decision they believe is in the best interests in the country. So from June 26, wear a helmet – or don’t ride a motorbike.

The overwhelming majority of Cook Islanders I observe are content to toodle along at 40kph or less, in daylight, doing their shopping, going to church, dropping their children or mokopuna at school, getting to and from work, visiting family and friends, visiting their doctor – without the protection of a helmet.

Rarely do they come to harm. I say rarely, because there is always the risk the moment you place yourself out on the road– and no matter what mode of transport you are using, that harm will come to you. We all take that risk multiple times every day.

Come June 26, the culture of riding a scooter for the people I’ve just mentioned is going to change.

Laws, by and large, are made to protect citizens and their rights. But there is little point in putting a statute on the books and not having the will, ability or inclination to enforce it.

We already have laws in place that, had citizens been inclined to adhere to, would have prevented loss of life or harm.

It is already illegal to ride a motor bike without a helmet if you are between the ages of 16 and 25.

It is already illegal to go above 40kph if you are not wearing a helmet and even if you are under the maximum legal speed 50kph; it is already illegal to drive any vehicle if have been drinking copious amounts of alcohol; it is already illegal to ride a motorbike if you do not have a licence that says you can.

Despite these existing laws there to protect us, people have broken them. Lives have been tragically cut short and families (multiple families) have lost members.

If Code Yellow has demonstrated anything – despite the inability for many people to really enhance and take seriously physical distancing – it has demonstrated that quieter roads at night, fewer accidents, fewer drunk people leaving bars and nightclubs driving vehicles they are not capable of driving safely has saved lives.

Code Yellow has saved lives.

When we cast our votes at elections we are expressing confidence in a person or party (sometimes both) that they will act with our best interests and in the best interests of the country.

By passing the helmet law that takes effect on June 26, our elected representatives have done what we elected them to do. We might not like, but there it is. We have a choice, either wear a helmet or don’t ride a motorbike/scooter.

The one group I think will be most affected by this new law is those families for whom motorbike/scooters are their only form of transport. And for them, there may be affordability and perhaps size implications (helmet size) too if they have little ones. Hopefully some solutions can be found to assist these families.

I have concerns that those members of our society who were previously guilty of breaking multiple laws might now think they are bullet-proof and can go even faster if they wear a helmet. Let’s hope not.

We elect our Members of Parliament to pass laws and govern this paradise we are lucky enough to call home, on our behalf. Governments are elected to govern.

They have passed this law because they believe it will save lives. There are many members of our community who have lobbied for this reason and cause for many years.

Access to clean water you can safely drink is the biggest single reason people live longer and healthier lives. I’m looking forward to seeing the same passion from the pro-helmet group and others when it comes to the  government needing to make decisions on the “d” word, disinfection, or the “c” word, chlorination.

Hundreds of thousands of communities around the world disinfect their water with chlorine. It is the norm, and it has been shown over and over again that disinfecting the system as a whole at source, is the most effective and cost effective method of providing clean water.

I believe the overwhelming majority of people here want clean water safe to drink coming out of their taps. I believe we don’t want to see our children or elderly folk suffering from stomach illnesses when that can be so easily avoided.

When the World Health Organisation was looking for reasons why people in developed countries in Europe live longer than those in less developed nations, there were several factors - but the one that stood out and was possibly most easily fixed – was contaminated water.

Helmets may well save some lives, access to clean drinking water will prolong them.

 

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