The Utah Legislature made a big mistake a few years ago when it repealed a tough law requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets. It's time to correct that error by re-enacting the law.

If the need for such a move wasn't clear before, it should be unmistakably plain from a new study released this week by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. The study's main findings:- Motorcycle accidents account for nearly one of every 10 deaths involving motor vehicles. For every motorcyclist killed, another 90 are hospitalized.

- In a survey at one sample hospital, more than half of the cyclists sustained head injuries. Though the failure to wear a helmet greatly increases the risk of serious head injuries and death or permanent disability, many cyclists refuse to do so.

- Though cyclists who do not wear helmets put themselves at great physical risk, they face little financial risk since they pay only about 1 percent of the medical costs when they are seriously injured. Sixty-three percent of motorcycle injury costs are paid for by public funds, with the remainder paid by private insurers.

Like many other states, Utah adopted a motorcycle helmet law in 1968 and then replaced it in 1977 with a law requiring helmets only for cyclists under 18 years of age. The old law was repealed after cyclists insisted it infringed on personal freedoms. Some freedom - the freedom to run greater risks of getting killed or injured, and the freedom to pass along to others the resulting costs in terms of not only medical care but also welfare and unemployment compensation.

Though 47 states once had helmet laws, such laws are now in effect in only 29 states. Since the laws have been repealed, a study at Princeton University shows that motorcyclist deaths have risen some 40 percent. Utah has followed that trend.

No wonder that a Deseret News poll a few years ago showed that 75 percent of Utahns favor a law that would require all motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Since Utah and many other states have laws requiring motorists to wear seat belts, it's absurd to go without a law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.