Louisiana House Votes to Repeal Motorcycle Helmet Law

June 5, 2009

The Louisiana House of Representatives has approved a measure that would allow adult motorcyclists to ride without helmets, so long as they have health insurance and $100,000 in liability insurance coverage.

The House voted 64-33 to repeal Louisiana’s current requirement that all motorcyclists wear protective headgear, after Rep. Jim Morris amended his repeal bill to add the insurance minimum requirements. He had earlier heard complaints that repeal of the law would create additional burden on the state’s health care costs, because uninsured bikers who crash without a helmet could be incapacitated for life.

Morris, who rides a Harley Davidson, has said he would continue wearing a helmet by choice if the bill passes. He argued that helmets should be a matter of choice and suggested that they’re overrated and restrict riders’ vision.

“It’s not as protective as one might think,” said Morris, R-Oil City. “They impair your vision, they impair your hearing.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he supports the measure, on the grounds that adults should be able to choose whether to wear headgear.

The vote sends the measure to the Senate, which killed a similar bill last year.

Under Morris’ bill, riders under 21 would still be required to wear helmets.

Opponents of the bill included another of the House’s motorcyclists, Rep. Charmaine Marchand Stiaes, who said repealing the current law would cause insurance rates to spike. She said she rides while wearing a helmet because of the danger of severe head injuries in an accident.

“If you don’t have a helmet on and your head hits the pavement, you will be either brain dead or dead dead,” said Stiaes, D-New Orleans. “That is not hard to understand.”

With Morris’ amendment, the bill says riders could go without helmets if they have “‘economic only’ uninsured motorist liability coverage with minimum limits of $100,000” and are covered by health insurance.

House Bill 639 can be viewed at http://legis.state.la.us/

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