Friday, April 1, 2016

Bill may change motorcycle helmet law in Missouri

A proposed Missouri House bill would make wearing protective headgear optional for motorcyclists and passengers at least 21 years old.

House Bill 1464 would modify the current law, which says anyone operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle on a highway must wear protective headgear when it’s in motion.

Proposed by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, supporters of HB 1464 say helmets don’t always save lives and that the option to wear a helmet should be the motorcyclist’s decision. They also claim Missouri would gain additional revenue from motorcyclists who would otherwise avoid the state due to its current helmet law.

Opponents disagree, saying the current law saves lives and reduces medical expenses. They also say helmets keep a driver’s vision clear of debris, which can protect other motorists.

Sgt. Jacob Angle of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the department won’t comment on pending legislation.

“It’s the legislature’s job to pass the laws and once passed it’s our jobs to enforce them,” he said.

Angle did say he would comment on the safety aspects of wearing protective headgear. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths, and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“We want to make sure everyone out there is safe,” Angle said.

Motorcyclists older than 21 who complete a motorcycle safety education course are permitted to ride without protective headgear under the bill. However, they must have insurance that provides $50,000 worth of first-party medical benefits for injuries sustained while they’re driving.

The Standing Committee on Transportation and the Select Committee on State and Local Government passed the bill, though it has not been scheduled on the House calendar.

In Kansas, anyone younger than 18 years old must wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle.

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