Motorcycle helmet bill revived in Senate committee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that seeks to do away with Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet requirement was revived Wednesday and is advancing in the state Legislature despite concerns about how it would be enforced.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield (SB925) passed the Senate Transportation Committee 5-4. Last month, the measure failed after it received a 4-4 vote. (Note: Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, switched her vote from no to yes on the second occasion. Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, who abstained the first time, voted no on the second vote.)

However, the sponsor was able to get a majority of signatures from lawmakers on the nine-member panel to place the measure back on the committee’s calendar.

Under the proposal, motorcycle riders at least 21 years old would be able to decide if they want to wear a helmet.

Roberts’ bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the House Finance Subcommittee.

Roberts said he’s not sure if the legislation will pass this session, but he plans to talk with members of upcoming committees to see what their concerns are.

“This is a victory for the people of Tennessee who want to be able to live their lives without the government micromanaging everything they do,” Roberts said.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott said his agency opposes the bill because it won’t allow officers to verify the age of motorcycle riders.

“It becomes a secondary violation,” Trott said. “Under the proposed legislation, we can’t stop someone just to see if they are under 21 for not wearing a helmet, so it’s difficult for us to tell the difference between a 23-year-old and a 19-year-old.”

There were about 167,000 motorcycles registered in Tennessee at the start of this year.