Editorials

Gov. Parson could make a deadly mistake with repeal of Missouri’s motorcycle helmet law

Share the Road: Watch for motorcycles

Crashes involving motorcycles are often the fault of a motorist failing to yield the right of way or caused by a motorist who is distracted.
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Crashes involving motorcycles are often the fault of a motorist failing to yield the right of way or caused by a motorist who is distracted.

How do you define asinine? Ask the Republican-led Missouri legislature, which has passed a measure repealing the state mandate requiring protective headgear for all motorcyclists.

Senate Bill 147 sits on Gov. Mike Parson’s desk awaiting his approval.

As a member of the House, Parson twice voted to eliminate the helmet requirement. And he’s expected to sign this measure.

But enacting this ill-conceived proposal in the name of “personal freedom” will have fatal consequences.

States that have taken similar action and have loosened their laws for motorcyclists have seen fatalities increase by more than a third, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported.

According to the institute’s latest report on motorcycle fatalities, 5,172 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2017. That was more than double the number of motorcyclist deaths in 1997.

Motorcycle deaths accounted for 14% of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2017.

Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is inherently dangerous. So is riding with one. But it is nonsensical to require drivers and passengers to use seat belts in cars and yet not require a helmet for motorcyclists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets cut the risk of a motorcycle fatality by 37% and are about 67% effective in preventing brain injuries.

So what, exactly, is the upside of riding without a helmet?

Under the measure passed by Missouri lawmakers, adults with proof of health insurance would be permitted to ride helmet-free. Anyone under the age of 18 still would be required to wear a helmet.

Currently, all riders and passengers in Missouri are mandated to wear protective headgear.

The bill, which includes a long list of transportation-related changes to state law, gained approval from both the Missouri House and Senate in the recently completed legislative session.

Supporters of the repeal claimed wearing protective headgear was a matter of personal freedom.

“I think there’s a limit of what government should be involved in our lives,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Republican state Sen. David Sater of Cassville, said during a debate on the measure.

But this isn’t an example of government overreach. Rather, it’s just basic public safety.

Even if you have health insurance, you still have to buckle up while in a motor vehicle. Motorcyclists of all ages should be required to take similar, commonsense precautions to protect their own health — and to live to venture out on the open road another day.

The data is unambiguous. If the governor signs this legislation, more Missourians will lose their lives in motorcycle crashes.

Why would the governor even consider green-lighting that deadly outcome?

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