• Missouri House passes repeal of universal helmet law

    By Mary McIntyre and Erjun Peng

    All motorcyclists take some kind of risk when they ride their bikes, but some are willing to take more than others by not wearing their helmets.

    The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill that will allow motorcyclists to ride without their helmets. Under the current universal helmet law, all riders must wear helmets at all times. If the bill goes into effect, the law would be less restrictive. Riders 21 and older would no longer be required to wear a helmet as long as they have proof of at least $50,000 of medical insurance. They would also need to take a two-day training course.

    “If you don’t wear a helmet, I do believe that you should have medical insurance,” Jefferson City resident Roger Esparza said. “But it should be our own choice of whether we want to or not.”

    There are 31 states in the U.S. that have either an age restriction for helmet use or no restrictions at all. The U.S. Government Accountability office found that when states repeal their universal helmet laws, fatal motorcycle crashes increase by an average of 40 percent.

    Scott Deker, site coordinator for Central Missouri Motorcycle Training, does not support the bill. “We all have somebody that cares about us, that we care about, that we want to get home to,” Deker said. “And if it’s a $200 helmet that protects you in a crash, I think I’m worth that.”

    HELMETS0507_infographic_2Kentucky is an example of a state where an increase in fatalities occurred. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Highway Safety, fatal crashes in Kentucky increased by more than 50 percent just two years after legislators repealed its universal helmet law.

    Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, is the sponsor of the Missouri bill.

    “The data does not account for the fact that in all the states that do modify their helmet laws, they see a massive inflow of tourism and motorcyclist activity in their state,” Burlison said.

    He believes Missouri will be a more attractive destination for bikers to hold events and rallies, if the law is repealed.

    “This is clearly one of those issues where the government is telling people what we think is in their best interest,” Burlison said. “Even though someone chooses to not wear a helmet, they’re only harming themselves.”

    Jake Tillitt, the sales manager at Mid America Harley-Davidson, supports the bill because he believes that the government shouldn’t regulate whether riders wear their helmets. But he still encourages them to.

    “Riding can be dangerous, and it’s important to protect your brain,” Tillitt said. “You can get a prosthetic arm, or leg or foot, but you cannot replace your brain.”

    Esparza said he would probably still wear his helmet when he is traveling on the interstate.

    “If I’m in town, running around for short distances, probably not,” Esparza said.

    The bill still needs to pass through the Senate, and be signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon for the helmet the change to go into effect.

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     Beatriz Costa-Lima is supervising editor. Amy Simons is faculty editor.

    ----------Posted on May 8, 2015 by in Student Work, Uncategoried

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