With spring officially here, we know many Missouri motorcyclists are looking ahead to rallies and events they'll attend over the coming months. If you're planning a long road trip, you've probably checked on the helmet laws in states you'll be traveling through. For many years, the issue of mandatory helmet use laws has been a hot topic for riders and lawmakers in several states. In 1967, the federal government required that states pass helmet laws in order to be eligible for certain safety programs and funding for road construction. Then, in 1968, Michigan became the first state to repeal the law, and in the years since, several other states - including Missouri - have repealed, amended and reinstated their helmet laws. Supporters say these laws reduce head injuries caused by motorcycle accidents, while opponents argue that the decision to wear a helmet should be a personal choice.
Recently, one Missouri lawmaker proposed new legislation that would create a "helmet holiday" in our state during the month of August. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Representative Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph, has introduced House Bill 341, which would temporarily suspend Missouri's helmet law during the month when hundreds of thousands of bikers are traveling to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. At present, many riders avoid Missouri as they journey to this well-known rally, instead planning a route that doesn't force them to go through a state with a helmet law. "This will allow all those thousands of people...to come through Missouri compliantly," Rep. Johnson said. "It's going to promote tourism, it's going to promote economic development, it's going to promote a lot of freedom in our state."
Currently, Missouri is one of 19 states that have a universal helmet law for riders of all ages, while 28 other states have laws that only require some motorcyclists to wear helmets. Nebraska is the only other Midwestern state with a universal helmet law like Missouri's.
In 2009, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill that would have repealed our state's helmet law, but that bill was vetoed by Governor Nixon. Another current bill - House Bill 555 - would amend the law so that helmets would only be mandatory for riders under age 21. State representative Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, has said that lifting our state's helmet requirement would provide economic benefits and allow riders freedom of choice. "In America, we have the freedom to get on a motorcycle, we have a freedom to snow ski, the freedom to go skydiving...a lot of freedoms that potentially put us in harm's way...but they're decisions you and I make, as long as they're not causing harm to someone else," Rep. Burlison said.
For specific information about helmet use laws throughout the U.S., click here to view a nationwide overview provided by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
Aaron Sachs and Associates is a Missouri personal injury law firm serving motorcycle accident victims and their loved ones. To contact us, call 1-888-777-AUTO, or visit our website. Offices in Springfield, Joplin, Columbia, Cape Girardeau and Kansas City.