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Steelers' Roethlisberger in Serious Motorcycle Accident

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Quarterback Is In Serious, But Stable, Condition
Roethlisberger Was NOT Wearing a Helmet

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident late this morning in Pittsburgh. He was taken to nearby Mercy Hospital, where doctors report he suffered extensive injuries, including a broken orbital socket in his face, a broken jaw, and a 9-inch laceration to the back of his head. He is also missing most of his teeth and may have sustained serious injuries to one or both knees.

Roethlisberger, 24, has been listed in serious, but stable, condition.

Now, I certainly hope Roethlisberger recovers from his injuries and can go on to lead a normal life. Whether his is able to play football again, we'll have to wait and see. You never know with head and knee injuries. I sincerely wish him the best in his recovery.

That said, Roethlisberger must be a real idiot. He plays a sport in which the regulations require him to wear a helmet. If he were to try to take the field without one, any sane person would say he needs to get his head examined. It's common sense to wear a helmet.

Yet, when he gets on a motorcycle, certainly a more dangerous proposition than playing quarterback in the NFL, he doesn't wear a helmet. And now he is getting his head examined, and stitched, and probably praying that that's the worst of it.

The remains of Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle
sit on a flatbed following this morning's accident in Pittsburgh

AP Photo Courtesy: USA Today

I really couldn't care less what the laws state, whether they allow someone to ride without a helmet -- as the law in that area provides. The lawmakers are idiots, but that doesn't require the citizenry to be even dumber.

I've already heard plenty of talk about whether Roethlisberger has a stipulation in his contract prohibiting him from riding during the season or at all, which, apparently, it doesn't. That's seriously beside the point. That's just the media looking for an angle.

It's not simply riding that has him in dire straits. It's riding specifically without a helmet. True enough, Roethlisberger would have suffered some significant injuries if he had been wearing a helmet. But his jaw would probably not be broken. His face wouldn't be shattered. He'd probably have most of his teeth. And he wouldn't end with with stitches and scars all over his head.

I was skimming through some comments on a major news site?s blog and read one complete moron?s statement: ?If you don't ride, save your helmet comments. It should be up to the rider. Period. Helmets SEVERELY limit your hearing and vision and wearing one can cause an accident in the first place.?

Ya. So I guess you can?t criticize NASA if you?re not a rocket scientist. Stupid is a stupid does. That comment has to be one of the dumbest arguments I?ve ever encountered for not wearing a helmet. (Incidentally, I wear a helmet when I ride a mountain bike on paved/smooth bike paths where there are no cars.)

Anyway, regardless of the moron?s statement, I?m pretty sure hearing and vision weren?t an issue in this case. The scene unfolded right in front of Roethlisberger.

The truth is, most laws are written to provide for the dumbest people in our society, like the fore-quoted poster. The laws exist because these people don?t know well enough themselves, and they need to be told what?s good for them. The fact that, until some time within the last couple years, that area did require cyclist?s to wear a helmet, is simply mind-boggling.

I constantly see bumper stickers reading,

CHECK TWICE - SAVE A LIFE
MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!!

Which, first, is abuse of exclamation marks. More importantly, it reads like a validation absolving motorcyclists of responsibility, as though everyone else on the road needs to be extra conscientious for the brainless ones weaving in and out of lanes, traveling 20 or 30 mph faster than anyone else on the road.

Now, we don?t know the all details of this morning?s accident. We know Roethlisberger and the car he hit were traveling in opposite directions, that the car was making a left turn in front of Roethlisberger, and that there are traffic lights at the intersection. We don?t know who had the right of way, what other traffic was doing, how fast anyone was traveling or (as it appears not, to this stage) whether any impairing substances were involved.

That said, judging by the video which shows the damage both vehicles sustained, it looks like a pretty high impact crash. Roethlisberger didn?t sail over the handlebars; he flew past them and plowed into the windshield of the car. And the front of his cycle is pretty much gone. This was no 30 mph crash. It makes me wonder if either driver or both drivers were trying to ?beat the light.?

Just over 13 months ago, following Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow?s motorcycle accident, ESPN?s Andrea Kramer interviewed Roethlisberger. When asked why he didn?t wear a helmet, he didn?t say anything about vision or hearing or any tripe like that. ?Because you don't have to. It's not the law. If it was the law, I'd definitely have one on every time I rode. But it's the law and I know I don't have to and you're just more free when you're out there with no helmet on.? OK, it?s tripe.

At the time, Roethlisberger said he wasn?t riding performance or sport bikes, just a Harley-Davidson and a chopper. But today he was riding a 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa, which definitely is a sport bike.

Roethlisberger also made one of those ?Live Free Or Die?-type comments:

?It's kind of like we say: ?Let those who ride decide.? I can make a decision. I'm a man. You're not going to make a decision for me, especially if you're not my boss or my employer. You don't have the right to make that decision for me, so I'm gonna go out and be as careful as I can ? look how many people are killed in car accidents every day. It's [a] risk whatever you do.?

Except a lot more people ride in cars than ride motorcycles. How about looking at the percentage of people who die in car accidents versus the percentage of people who die in motorcycle accidents? But people like Roethlisberger ignore statistics like those. As far as who has the right, lawmakers do have the right; which he pretty much conceded himself when he said that if the law required wearing a helmet, he would.

Either way, not wearing a helmet doesn?t appear to be ?as careful as [he] can.?

There was all kinds of talk (in Pittsburgh, at least) about a conversation between Steelers? head coach Bill Cowher and Roethlisberger during training camp that year. Roethlisberger said Cowher never told him to wear a helmet. ?He just told me be careful and use my head,? Roethlisberger said.

Think one-out-of-two ain?t bad?

Incidentally, it?s Motorcycle Week in Laconia, NH. There is no helmet law in New Hampshire. I lived up in the Laconia area for three years. It amazed me how many people refused to wear helmets. It didn?t surprise me how many motorcycle-related fatalities there were. Already this year, one Motorcycle Week-related accident resulted in three dead bikers. Two of the three were not wearing helmets.