JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The debate over whether Missouri motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets went before the House Transportation Committee Thursday.
Supporters argue they should have the freedom to chose while opponents believe the legislation will result in more deaths and serious injuries.
State Rep. Jered Taylor and State Rep. Shane Roden have introduced bills that would lift the requirement for anyone 18 years of age or older. Their proposed legislation would also require any motorcyclist wanting to bike helmet-free to have medical insurance. Roden told the committee if the proposed legislation passes it would be similar to showing proof of auto insurance during a traffic stop.
Supporters included representatives from the group Freedom of Road Riders, Inc. One representative testified the state is losing out on tourism dollars because some bikers don’t want to purchase a helmet.
“Friends all over the nation will bypass Missouri to go to Sturgis or any of the other big rallies that are going on across the country,” said Deanna Rhodes, the group’s Motorcycle Awareness Coordinator. “We are losing dollars left and right because they do not want to come into our state.”
Groups traveling to Jefferson City to testify against the bill included the Brain Injury Association of Missouri. One mother testified her son who was severely injured in a crash and would not have survived had he not been wearing a helmet. MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna also testified against the proposed legislation.
“We feel this proposed legislation is a move in the wrong direction for public safety in Missouri,” McKenna said. “MoDOT, alongside highway safety partners across the state, have opposed helmet repeal legislation since the early 2000’s on the grounds that helmets have proven to save lives and prevent brain injuries.”