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North Carolina Legislature rejects repeal of motorcycle helmet law

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that helmets reduce the chance of a motorcycle crash death by as much as 42 percent and head injuries by as much as 69 percent. Yet every two years freedom-loving motorcyclists in North Carolina seek to have the General Assembly repeal the state’s law requiring all bikers to wear safety helmets. The latest attempt went down to defeat, as reported by NewsObserver.com.

The House Transportation Committee had endorsed the motorcyclists’ proposal, which would require helmets only for rookie motorcyclists, namely those licensed less than 12 months, and riders younger than 21. To compensate for the lack of a helmet, riders would be required to carry enough insurance to cover the first $10,000 worth of medical bills for potential injuries from a motorcycle crash.

Concerns about medical costs defeat bill

The bill ran into trouble in the House Judiciary B Committee. A dozen white-clad emergency room doctors testified before the committee that repealing the law for most bike riders would cause more deaths and serious head injuries. This increase would in turn drive up medical costs for hospitals, taxpayers and families.

Both Republican and Democratic committee members related stories about brain-injured survivors of motorcycle accidents. The bill’s sponsor, motorcyclist Rep. John Torbett, a Republican from Gaston County, was left with obtaining committee approval for a watered-down bill to have the Legislature study the helmet law and related medical and economic issues.

Fewer injuries v. freedom of choice

A representative of the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force expressed satisfaction with the outcome, pointing out that young motorcyclists suffered more injuries in Florida after that state repealed its mandatory helmet law for adult riders. Even younger riders in Florida stopped wearing helmets.

On the other hand, the state vice-president of the Concerned Bikers Association accused helmet advocates of using “half-truths and outright lies and numbers picked out of the air.” For the members of the Association “it boils down to a matter of freedom of choice,” according to the News Observer

Motorcyclists are the most vulnerable users of North Carolina’s highways. In 2010, 4,502 motorcyclists (operators and passengers) were killed in motorcycle crashes nationwide, or 14 percent of all road traffic deaths, yet motorcycles accounted for less than one percent of all vehicle miles traveled. If you are injured or a loved one is killed in a motorcycle crash, you should contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who can explore your right to obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries or loss.