Where are we headed? Sometimes, Missouri lawmakers leave us scratching our heads, and that is certainly the case in the recent decision to rescind the requirement that adult motorcyclists wear helmets to ride on public roadways.
On the last day of the session, legislators sent to the governor a bill to remove the helmet requirement for riders who are 18 or older and have health insurance; the second requirement will probably only be determined after the crash.
The drive to repeal the helmet protections has been a perennial effort in the General Assembly. Common sense has prevailed repeatedly — despite a drive to remove the protections in 2009 ended only by Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto — until now.
What does the Legislature hope to accomplish by removing a requirement that has protected generations of Missourians since 1967? Freedom, supporters say. They tout the move as getting an overly restrictive government out of riders’ lives. Some even compared to change to not interfering with people who engage in risky sports such as rock climbing, skiing and skydiving.
What will be accomplished if Gov. Mike Parson signs this bill into law? The deaths of many more motorcyclists. In other states that have repealed helmet laws, deaths in motorcycle crashes have increased by a third or more.
The American Journal of Surgery reported a recent study that found after Michigan repealed its helmet law in 2012, the percentage of crash-scene fatalities involving those not wearing helmets quadrupled. Our state will pay a big cost in human lives and the family and social impacts that those deaths bring. Even those who survive the crash will often have traumatic brain injuries that carry long recovery times and produce lasting impairment.
Missouri will also pay a financial cost for these deaths and injuries. In states with a comprehensive helmet law such as Missouri, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds a cost savings to society through helmet use of $725 per registered motorcycle.
We have an abiding obligation to protect public safety on roads and highways — funded and built through the various levels of government that lawfully regulate and restrict their use. As you probably learned in driver’s education class, operating a vehicle on a public road is a privilege, not a right.
Riders may want to feel the wind in their hair, but motorcycle safety classes universally instruct motorcyclists to dress for the crash, not the ride. An old saw says there are only two kinds of riders — those who have had a crash and those who will have a crash.
Gov. Parson, you can stop the dangerous ride down this dark road. Veto this measure.
Where are we headed? If you sign this bill into law, governor, many Missouri motorcyclists are on their way to the funeral home.