Connecticut Weighs Helmet Law for Motorcycle Drivers

February 25, 2019

Connecticut lawmakers are considering whether to require motorcycle drivers to wear helmets, as in previous legislative sessions.

But this year, the concept is among a host of recommendations from a public safety transition group that’s been advising newly elected Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.

The Public Health Committee has scheduled a public hearing on Monday regarding two bills that would impose mandatory helmet use. One proposal would require helmets be worn by motorcycle operators and passengers under age 21. The other bill would require all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear protective headgear. Currently, anyone 17 and younger must wear a helmet.

“The scientific evidence of the protective impact of motorcycle helmets is consistent and convincing,” said Garry Lapidus, director of the Injury Prevention Center of Connecticut Children’s Medical, in written testimony submitted to the committee in advance of Monday’s hearing. Lapidus is a member of Lamont’s advisory group.

Besides instituting a universal helmet law, the second bill would also require anyone riding in the back seat of a vehicle to wear a seatbelt. It’s a concept that was also recommended for Lamont to consider.

Julie Peters, executive director of the Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut, said helmet laws save both lives and money. In written testimony, she said the annual cost related to motorcycle crashes in Connecticut is estimated at $157.2 million annually.

“Riders without helmets have higher health care costs as a result of their crash injuries,” she wrote. “So the financial burden for the treatment and care of those who survive a motorcycle crash is then placed on the government and taxpayers.”

But motorcycle enthusiasts are already registering their opposition to the legislation.

Darryl Steding of Stafford wrote to the committee ahead of the public hearing. While he said he wears a helmet, he doesn’t believe protective headgear should be required.

“There are many different helmets that provide different levels of protection and I would like to make my own choice of what to wear or not to wear,” he wrote.

Until 1976, Connecticut had required anyone riding on a motorcycle, including passengers, to wear an approved protective helmet. After that law was repealed, there were no helmet requirements from 1976 until 1989, when the General Assembly enacted a “partial” helmet law that requires anyone under age 18 to wear an approved helmet, according to the Office of Legislative Research. The law also requires applicants seeking a motorcycle license to wear a helmet while on a training permit.

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