Pa. Lawmakers Reportedly Put the Cart Before the Horse on Helmet Law

July 8, 2003

The Pennsylvania legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Ed Rendell that would reportedly repeal the state’s motorcycle helmet law. However,
just prior to that vote, lawmakers approved a resolution calling for a study on motorcycle accidents and helmet use.

Senate Bill 259, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Rendell, repeals the helmet law for riders over 21 with two years of riding experience or a rider education course. Riders under 21 would still be required to wear a helmet.

On a unanimous vote, House Resolution 349 was also adopted which
requires a study on the number of motorcycle accidents for the first two years after the adoption of the resolution. The study will gather information on the number of individuals wearing helmets that are involved in accidents and the increase, if any, in injuries and fatalities due to head trauma that may be attributed to individuals not wearing helmets.

“Repealing the law is a high stakes gamble with the safety and lives of motorcycle riders,” said Michael Harrold, senior director of state government affairs for the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII). “It is disappointing that lawmakers would repeal the state’s 35 year-old helmet law prior to looking at the impact that it might have on riders, their families, friends and all citizens of Pennsylvania. There is merit in doing a study on the impact of helmets on motorcycle safety in Pennsylvania. After collecting this data lawmakers should be in a much better position to make a decision about the value of a helmet law.”

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, numerous studies have shown that helmet use helps to reduce the fatality rate, the probability and severity of head injuries, the cost of medical treatment, the length of hospital stay, the necessity for special medical treatments, and the probability of long-term disability.

“These studies provide ample evidence that helmet laws work. Unfortunately, the approach being taken by Pennsylvania, which requires only minors to wear helmets and is tied to rider education
requirements will be virtually impossible to enforce and do little to promote safety,” added Harrold.

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