Missouri House Passes Bill to Repeal State’s Universal Helmet Law for Motorcyclists
Oct 16, 2015
St. Peters, MO, (Law Firm Newswire) October 16, 2015 – Backers say the bill is a step toward freedom but opponents worry it would increase fatalities and injuries.
The Missouri House of Representatives approved a bill on April 13 that would repeal the state’s universal helmet law that requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. The measure, HB 523, which passed the lower chamber of the Legislature in a 97-57 vote, would permit motorcyclists who are at least 21 years of age to ride their vehicles while not wearing a helmet.
Supporters of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Greene County, tout the measure as an expression of freedom of choice. While backers of the bill concede that riding a motorcycle is not as safe as driving an automobile, they also believe that the fact that motorcyclists are allowed to engage in a riskier activity should also mean that they should have the right to make their own decisions about wearing a helmet.
Missouri is among the 18 states that have a universal helmet law, which has been on the books since 1967. Missouri’s law stands in contrast with the laws in the neighboring states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, which do not require adult motorcyclists to wear helmets. Arkansas mandates helmets for riders under the age of 21, while Kansas and Oklahoma require them for motorcyclists under the age of 18. Illinois and Iowa do not require helmet use by motorcyclists of any age.
“While passage of the bill may grant its supporters a greater measure of what they consider constitutes freedom, it will also put more motorcyclists at risk for suffering traumatic brain injury, said Charles James, a prominent personal injury attorney in St. Peters, Missouri. “It is no surprise that medical groups have been among the most ardent opponents of this bill.”
Statistics have helped to buttress the concerns of those people and organizations who are opposed to easing of motorcycle helmet laws. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,699 motorcyclists in the United States in 2012; had all motorcyclists worn helmets in that year another 781 lives would have been saved. The NHTSA found that 42 percent of the motorcyclists who were killed in crashes in 2012 were not wearing helmets.
The NHTSA concluded that helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers. In essence, those figures mean that for every 100 motorcycle riders or passengers not wearing helmets who were killed in crashes, 37 riders and 41 passengers, respectively, would have been saved had they been helmeted.
HB 523 now moves on to the Missouri Senate for consideration.
“There is little mystery as to which party is likely to sustain greater injury in a collision involving a motorcycle and a motor vehicle,” James said. “And the removal of helmets as a safety element would tip the equation more heavily against the motorcyclist.”
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