Adults in Kansas Could Be Ticketed for Helmet-Less Teen Motorcyclists

February 9, 2010

It’s illegal in Kansas for someone under 18 to drive or ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, and teenagers can be ticketed if they’re caught doing so.

Now, a new Senate bill proposes adults face penalties, too — if they allow a minor to ride without a helmet.

The bill, introduced Jan. 14, would make it illegal for owners of a motorcycle or motorized bicycle to permit a person under 18 to drive or ride on their vehicle without wearing a helmet.

If the bill passes, it means “adults could be ticketed for that now, too,” said Hutchinson Police Sgt. Brian Hirt.

According to Hirt, teens age 14 through 17 can already be cited for not wearing a helmet; a ticket for the offense nets a $25 fine and $75 in court costs.

“Maybe (the bill) is a way to encourage people under 18 to wear a helmet, and for adults to say, ‘If you want to ride my motorcycle, you need to have a helmet,”‘ Hirt said.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 4,810 people were killed and 88,000 were injured in motorcycle accidents in 2006. In Kansas, 43 of the 64 riders killed in motorcycle crashes in 2006 weren’t wearing helmets, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Use of motorcycle helmets has been on the rise nationally, the NHTSA reported, with 67 percent of motorcyclists using a helmet in 2009, compared to just 48 percent in 2005.

Parents should be responsible for the safety of their children, who don’t have the capability to make good decisions, said Keith Garey, who teaches motorcycle safety courses at Hutchinson Community College.

A few teenagers, age 16 and 17, have enrolled over the past few years in the college’s motorcycle safety courses, but only after their parents have signed a waiver allowing them to take the course, Garey said.

Jeremy Ehart, 30, assistant director of the American Legion riders and adjutant for Hutchinson’s Legion Post No. 68, said he thinks adults should “definitely be ticketed, because it’s their responsibility to make sure the minor is safe.”

“I know the younger you are, the crazier you can be,” he said, although he noted some young motorcyclists are more experienced than their peers if they’ve grown up around motorcycles.

Garey, however, said he didn’t know how much good the bill would do for irresponsible parents.

“A new law would certainly get their attention at least for the moment,” he said, “but whether they continue through with it, I don’t know.”

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