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GRE Argument Essay: Wearing Helmets While Bicycling - With A Free Essay Review.
Prompt: “The following appeared in a health newsletter. ‘A ten-year nationwide study of the effectiveness of wearing a helmet while bicycling indicates that ten years ago, approximately 35 percent of all bicyclists reported wearing helmets, whereas today that number is nearly 80 percent. Another study, however, suggests that during the same ten-year period, the number of bicycle-related accidents has increased 200 percent. These results demonstrate that bicyclists feel safer because they are wearing helmets, and they take more risks as a result. Thus, to reduce the number of serious injuries from bicycle accidents, the government should concentrate more on educating people about bicycle safety and less on encouraging or requiring bicyclists to wear helmets.’ Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.”
First of all, the author implies wearing helmets results in increasing bicycle-related accidents. Since the number of bicycle-related accidents has increased 200 percent while more bicyclists started to wear helmets based on the nationwide study, the author necessarily assumes that there is a positive correlation between wearing helmets and the increase in the number of bicycle-related accidents. However, there is no evidence suggests these increased bicycle-related accidents are caused by bicyclists who wear helmets. It is possible that majority of these accidents are caused by bicyclists who do not wear helmets. In addition, it is also possible that the significant increase of bicycle-related accidents is due to the increase of cars on roads, which has nothing to do with wearing helmets. If the correlation between wearing helmets and bicycle-related accidents is proved unwarranted, and it is because of the worse traffic nowadays, then the conclusion concerning the impact of less emphasing on wearing helmets would be false, and there would be no grounds for predicting reducing the number of bicycle-related accidents.
Furthermore, the author suggests that wearing helmets can contribute to increasing the number of serious injuries from bicycle accidents. This argument only make sense on the basis of an assumption that people tend to take more risks because they feel safer when they wear helmets. However, this assumption is not supported by any evidence. If the assumption is unwarranted, and people do not necessarily feel safer, nor they want to take risks, then the conclusion concerning that people feel safer with helmets on, and are more likely to take risks, consequently more serious accidents would be invalid. Since the assumption about bicyclists take more risks and feel safer may not be warranted, as a result, the suggestion of emphasizing educating people about bicycle safety is not sound.
To sum up, in order to accept the author’s recommendation, we need to ensure the assumptions the author made such as the correlation between wearing helmets and bicycle-related accidents, and people tend to take more risks when they wear helmets are valid beforehand.
I'm not sure it is technically correct to suggest that the author assumes a positive correlation between wearing helmets and the increase in the number of accident; that's really an explicit factual claim. It might be fair to say that the author of the newsletter assumes that there is no other plausible explanation of the increase in the number of accidents than the increased usage of helmets. And the increase in the number of accidents, you rightly note, may be due to factors other than increased risk-taking on the part of helmeted cyclists (you miss, I think, the most obvious alternative explanation: an increased number of cyclists). Note that the validity of the conclusion doesn't necessarily depend on the truth of the claim that wearing helmets increases risk-taking. Even if that is not true, it may still be the case that the best way to reduce the number of serious injuries would be to concentrate more on educating people about bicycle safety. Your conclusion that the original conclusion "would be false" needs revision, then, but it is correct to say that there would be no grounds for predicting a reduction in the number of bicyle-related accidents. (To be precise, the author refers to reducing the number of serious injuries, not the number of accidents, an important point in terms of the other assumptions made in the original argument).
I don't really see the difference between your first argument and your second argument. Again, the author argues that cyclists take more risks when wearing helmets. That's not the assumption of the argument, it is the argument itself; it is also the basis of the argument’s explanation of the correlation between the increased usage of helmets and the increased number of accidents, which was the subject of your previous paragraph.
You are probably wondering what is left to write about, however, if you delete that paragraph. Well, I'm not going to tell you, but I'll give you a hint: reducing the number of serious injuries doesn't necessarily require reducing the number of accidents.