Saturday, February 16
In September 2005, Baljinder Badesha was charged with the crime of riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Mr. Badesha countered by saying that as a Sikh he is required to wear a turban whenever he leaves his home and that nothing can touch his turban, therefore he is unable to comply with the law in this matter. The State hired a professional engineer to simulate wearing a turban while riding a motorcycle. This was done by placing a turban on a mannequin head and subjecting the mannequin head to 300 kph winds in a wind tunnel. The turban in a turbine unwound, which the State used as evidence that it was a danger to Mr. Badesha and to other riders. Mr. Badesha then rode his motorcycle on a close speedway at 110 kph to demonstrate that his turban would not unwind. The State has further claimed that since it will pay the medical bills of Mr. Badesha should he be injured in a motorcycle accident, the State has a reason to insist on his safe use of a motorcycle. The case continues to make its way through the courts.
Many of my favorite topics are woven into this story. Ancient superstition is trumping common sense and personal safety. The State is demonstrating it can't demonstrate justification for its laws. No simple answer appears in accomodating public safety versus individual choice, or superstition versus the secular state, or socialized medicine versus un-asked-for 'care' from the State. My view counts for nothing here, but perhaps a suitable compromise might be that Mr. Badesha should be allowed to ride without a helmet and the State should be relieved of providing him medical care should be be injured while riding without a helmet.