View Full Version : Missouri Helmet-law repeal back for debate

01-19-2005, 02:29 PM
From today's Kansas City Star


JEFFERSON CITY — Freedom for bikers to feel the wind in their hair collided Tuesday with concerns over higher death tolls as senators considered whether to repeal Missouri's motorcycle helmet law.

The Senate Transportation Committee heard supporters of a repeal argue that helmets do little to prevent serious injury in traffic collisions. But above all, they said, government should not intrude on the private decisions of responsible adults.

“It's not what's on your head that's going to save your life,” said Tony Shepherd, the Missouri field representative for the American Motorcyclists Association. “It's what you have inside your head.”

But opponents of a repeal said helmets often mean the difference between a rider dying or suffering permanent brain injury and walking away from a crash with cuts and bruises.

Dale Findlay, executive director of the Missouri Safety Council, said helmets save the state money because motorcycle riders are underinsured more often than the average motorist. Therefore, the state pays medical bills for the injured rider and often the costs of welfare and other benefits for the rider's family, he said.

“Helmets protect heads, save lives and protect brains,” Findlay said.

Missouri law currently prohibits anyone from riding a motorcycle without a helmet. The bill under discussion would allow riders 21 and older to ride without helmets while still requiring riders younger than 21 to wear protective headgear.

Similar bills have been filed every year since at least 1997. The legislature approved repealing the law in 1999, but then-Gov. Mel Carnahan vetoed the bill.

He cited the high public costs of caring for injured riders, which outweighed the desire of riders to be free from government restrictions.

This year, however, supporters of the bill have a governor on their side. Spence Jackson, a spokesman for Gov. Matt Blunt, said Blunt supports repealing the helmet requirement.

At Tuesday's hearing, supporters downplayed the costs of motorcycle injuries, saying instead that wearing a helmet should be a personal choice.

Terry Lee Cook, a lobbyist for the American Motorcyclists Association, said most motorcycle fatalities were the result of cars cutting in front of motorcyclists or otherwise violating riders' rights of way. Responsible adults should not face government restrictions on their rights, he said.

Cook picked up support from Sen. Matt Bartle, a Lee's Summit Republican, who questioned whether government should make paternalistic choices for adults. Bartle said American diets will lead to an epidemic of adult-onset diabetes, but asked whether it was appropriate to enact laws that restrict calorie intake.

“Can we legislate common sense?” Bartle asked.

Findlay questioned Bartle's stance, saying Missouri's helmet requirement has been in effect since 1967 and no one's freedoms have been endangered.

Terry Butler of the Missouri Motorcycle Safety Program said helmets also reduce the number of accidents because bikers who wear protective gear ride more conservatively.

Sen. Jon Dolan, a Lake St. Louis Republican and chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he had supported repealing the helmet requirement in the past. This year, he is undecided.

Dolan said most legislators seem to favor repealing the law, but leading members of both the House and Senate do not want to be seen as regressing on a public-safety issue.

Dolan said he planned to merge the helmet bill with a proposal to require primary enforcement of Missouri's requirement that automobile passengers wear seat belts. Under current law, drivers can be cited for not wearing seat belts, but only if they are pulled over for other violations.

Dolan acknowledged that beefing up a seat-belt requirement in cars while repealing the motorcycle helmet law seemed to be at odds.

But he said the large number of people injured in car crashes while not wearing seat belts justified a stronger law.

To reach Kit Wagar,

call (816) 234-4440 or send e-mail to kwagar@kcstar.com.

01-19-2005, 02:41 PM
Don't know if my above post is in the right area. May want to move it to Biker Rights?

01-19-2005, 02:55 PM
Terry Butler of the Missouri Motorcycle Safety Program said helmets also reduce the number of accidents because bikers who wear protective gear ride more conservatively.

this is mis-leading... forcing someone to wear a helmet doesn't make them ride more conservatively. i think bikers who choose to wear a helmet gear tend to ride more conservatively...