Virginia Panel Endorses Lowering Penalty for Riding without Helmet

January 30, 2007

A Virginia House of Delegates committee endorsed legislation Friday to significantly reduce the penalty for riding a motorcycle without a helmet.

The Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee voted 9-4 to send Del. Watkins Abbitt’s bill to the House floor. The same committee has repeatedly endorsed bills repealing the helmet law in recent years only to see the measures die in the full House.

Under the current law, riding without a helmet is a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250. Violators also can be assessed demerits on their driving record.

Abbitt’s bill would change the punishment to a $25 civil fine. Violations would not show up on the offender’s Department of Motor Vehicles record.

Abbitt, I-Appomattox, said his proposal would make the punishment for failing to wear a helmet the same as failing to buckle a seat belt. Fines would go to the state Literary Fund, which helps localities pay for school construction projects.

There was no debate on the bill in committee.

“It’s important for motorcycle riders to wear helmets from a safety standpoint,” Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said in an interview. He said that “on the surface,” the bill appears to be a disincentive for compliance.


The bill is HB3077

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