MOTORCYCLES: The Great Helmet Debate

For as long as motorcyclists can recall, the debate over whether motorcycle helmets should be mandatory has flourished.  Forty-seven states, including Nebraska, as well the District of Columbia, Guam, Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have laws in place requiring the use of a helmet for some riders.  Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a universal law, while the other twenty-eight states and Guam require helmets only for specific riders.  Only four states (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and New Hampshire) do not have a motorcycle helmet law for any riders.

Still the debate continues and states continually attempt to introduce legislation to repeal helmet laws.  Tennessee’s most recent effort to adjust their law to exempt those over 25 years old with at least $200,000.00 in medical insurance and $100,000.00 in liability coverage, failed in committee this week.  Two years ago, Michigan repealed its motorcycle helmet law.  Nebraska has had a helmet law in place since 1989.  Last year, Nebraska introduced a bill which would have required eye protection in operating a moped, while exempting anyone over 21 years of age from the requirement of wearing a helmet.  The bill now has been removed from the Unicameral’s agenda and has virtually no chance to be reviewed again in this legislative session.  This was the fifth time Nebraska had considered measures to alter the motorcycle helmet laws.  The most recent vote showed the repeal might have reached the 25 votes it needed to pass if the vote to cut off debate on the bill had been successful, which kept the bill from the voting floor.

As an attorney who has focused a good portion of his practice on motorcycle accident litigation, I have seen the massive head trauma that can occur during motorcycle accidents.  If you live in a state which requires you to wear a helmet, be sure to choose one that is DOT-Compliant.  Where do you stand on the helmet law?