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Trust our leaders' judgment

I have three friends in various stages of recovery from head injuries. None of them is doing what I would call well.

One, some of us believe, tried to kill herself after friends told her that her dead husband was with Jesus. One is easily disoriented and sometimes combative. One will walk with a cane for the rest of her life.

All of their injuries happened more than 15 years ago.

That's why I'm bothered by government's schizophrenic approach to bicycle and motorcycle helmets, skateboards and roller skates in Citrus County.

Citrus County was the first county in the state to "opt out" of the Florida law requiring children younger than 16 to wear helmets while riding bicycles.

Bicycle helmets reduce the danger of head injury in bicycle accidents by 85 to 88 percent, according to statistics provided by medical and pro-helmet authorities.

This month the Citrus County Commission voted 3-2 to support state legislation that would give motorcycle riders over 21 the option of riding without helmets.

Statistics on motorcycle and bicycle helmet safety depend a lot on from whom you get them, but the National Center for Statistical Analysis says that motorcycle helmets are estimated to be 29 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorists.

The Inverness City Council at about the same time voted 4-1 to ban skating and skateboarding on city streets and on sidewalks in the recently renovated downtown business district.

Why? Because somebody might get hurt.

Seems like the slower you go in those parts and the closer to the ground you are when you fall, the greater threat to yourself and others you present.

Yeah, there are side issues. My biker friends are always telling me about restricted vision and hearing in helmets and pointing to their "Let Those Who Ride, Decide" T-shirts.

I agree with them. People who deliberately do dangerous things have the right to do so, if they are willing to waive all rights to insurance coverage or government-funded treatment for avoidable injuries suffered while demonstrating how free they are.

In short: Don't make my insurance rates go up. Don't sue me for an avoidable injury. Don't tax me to pay a lifetime of care _ then go ride naked if you want to. Oh yeah, don't call me with a sob story about how an uncaring world left your friend lying in the driveway outside an emergency room because he or she rolled the dice and lost. Buy a T-shirt reading, "Let Those Who Dare, Beware."

Kids wearing bicycle helmets? Yeah, let's make some sort of libertarian anti-government stance on this issue. Let's throw around stock phrases like "government intrusion" and "social engineering" and show Big Brother that we hold sacred our children's inalienable right to lose things like the ability to blink, swallow or cry.

But roller skates? Big risk.

Yes, I have stepped out of a downtown store and almost been clipped by a bicycle or a skateboarder (bikes, by the way, are still welcome). But the truth is that kids with lightning reflexes are pretty good at avoiding collisions and I've been hurt worse by people my own age pushing grocery carts.

The truth is that some of the downtown merchants didn't like all of those young people hanging around what is the neatest skating / in-line skating / skateboard area in the county and wanted them to go elsewhere.

Other options, like building and maintaining an area where kids with signed parental releases (apparently not a problem in this last bastion of don't-tread-on-me Americanism) could skate their little hearts out, apparently didn't come up.

The ban is also on city streets, but, city officials explain, it's already against state law. So, why is the ordinance necessary? See above.

But it's all right, they say. The police aren't going to enforce the law all of the time . . . just when they feel like they need to. Those are good laws, the ones designed to be selectively enforced.

Because if you can't trust your government, who can you trust?