Another state may allow helmet-less adults

Adults motorcycle helmet law

There soon may be another state in the US that allows adults to choose for themselves whether they wear a motorcycle helmet or not.

Missouri voted in May 2019 to repeal its helmet laws.

Governor Mike Parson vetoed the Bill in July, but only because of a provision to confiscate licences of people who don’t pay fines for minor traffic offences.

The Governor had no qualms with allowing riders over 18 to decide whether they want to wear a helmet or not.

In fact, Parson supported repealing the helmet rule as a legislator.

Bill author, Senator Eric Burlison, says he will try again next year.

These are the states with motorcycle helmet laws for all riders: Alabama, California, DC, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Only Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire, where seven riders recently died when they were mowed down by a truck,  have no helmet use law. 

Adults only

The remaining states have varying laws requiring minors to wear a motorcycle helmet while six of those states require adults to have $10,000 in insurance and wear a helmet in their first year of riding.

Adult riders are varyingly considered 18 or 21. 

There has been a steady move toward liberalising US helmet laws in recent years.

But here’s an interesting example.

In 1977 Texas moved from a universal helmet law to an adult helmet option like Missouri wants.

There followed a 35% increase in motorcycle fatalities. Texas reinstated its universal helmet law in 1989 and deaths dropped by 11%. The law makers changed their minds yet again in 1997 to cover only riders younger than 21 and deaths leapt 31%.

As Dudley (William H Macy) tells Woody (John Travolta) in “Wild Hogs”: “62% of all motorcycle fatalities could be prevented with the use of an approved DOT helmet.”

Liberal helmet laws adults
Wild Hogs

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for every 100 motorcyclists killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 could have been saved had they worn helmets.

Yet, the use of motorcycle helmets in the US continues to decline to about half from 71% in 2000.

While the US public health institute the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the most common injuries in motorcycle crashes are to the riders’ feet or legs, the next most common location for non-fatal rider injuries was to the neck and head, accounting for 22%.

4 Comments

  1. Always a good debate… Nanny state Vs free choice.

    I’d side more with free choice, as the rider is the one who will personally suffer the most.
    There are also family issues of salary loss and loved one’s loss, however that’s the individual riders consideration.
    The rehabilitation health cost argument of burden borne by the govt could be minimised via compulsory insurance, with higher premiums if choosing to ride without a helmet.

    Interesting case study mentioned from Texas. Besides noting percentages, which can often colour the impact ( eg if only one death per year usually, two deaths mean a 100% increase etc) , are there actual raw numbers available also?

    It’s notable that Sheikh riders have the choice to wear a turban for religious reasons in many countries, would be interesting to know the fatality rates amount that demographic.

  2. I was involved in a t bone accident and my head hit the road, as a result I have some brain damage.
    Had I not been wearing a helmet,I could see the amount of brain damage could have been considerably more and perhaps death.

  3. Even if we didn’t have to wear helmets in Australia, I would continue to wear one as I prefer to do so, they cut down the wind noise, protect you from road debris & insects in addition to possibly saving your skull in the event of a crash.

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