Riders rejoice as safety advocates fret repeal of Missouri's motorcycle helmet law

Published: May. 18, 2020 at 5:22 PM CDT
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With just minutes to spare in this year's legislative session, a bill repealing the state's helmet requirement passed out of the Missouri House of Representatives Friday to go to Governor Mike Parson's desk.

"Can we say stunned? Very excited," said Tony Shepherd, an advocate with ABATE for Missouri.

Shepherd has been fighting for the right to ride a motorcycle without a helmet for quite a while.

"For the last 39 years, we've been trying to push this through," Shepherd said.

That is why Springfield Republican Senator Eric Burlison pushed so hard to get it passed.

"They take their days off from work, they're not paid, they come up here and they advocate year after year after year, because they just want a little bit of freedom," Burlison said during debate on the Senate floor.

The bill would allow motorcycle riders to ride without a helmet if they're 26-years-old or older. They have to have health insurance or a policy that pays medical benefits, as well as proof of financial responsibility.

The initial bill called for riders over the age of 18 to have the choice, but some lawmakers balked at the idea.

Not everyone is thrilled.

"We're disappointed this got through at the very last minute," said Brandon Koch, the Executive Director of the Missouri Insurance Coalition.

Koch said the cost of car insurance is likely going to go up if the bill is signed into law, because accidents with a car and motorcycle could be much worse.

"When you peel off the helmet, now they could have severe head injuries or brain trauma, which is going to be a lot more expensive," Koch said.

The group 'Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is urging Governor Mike Parson to veto the bill.

"What is proven to save lives is 'all rider motorcycle helmet laws,' said Catherine Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Anything less than that is dangerous to the motorcyclist and anyone sharing the roads with them."

Chase noted Michigan saw rates of traumatic brain injuries increase by four times after lawmakers repealed their state's law.

Shepherd said while all injuries and deaths are unfortunate, the data in many states has been mixed.

"A helmet is a good tool, it is a good safety device. We're not saying you can't wear them, all we're asking for is choice. I'm an adult, I'm responsible. Give me my choice, give me my freedom."

If Governor Parson signs the bill into law, it'll go into effect on August 28.