Biker helmet repeal bill is back for 21st year

From a Richard Locker report:

For 20 years, a small cadre of motorcyclists — some in coats and ties, some in black leather jackets — have descended on the State Capitol asking lawmakers to repeal Tennessee’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law, which since 1967 has required all motorcycle riders to wear helmets on Tennessee streets and highways.

And every year, they’ve left in defeat, after successive heads of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the state Department of Health, emergency room doctors and others present lawmakers the latest statistics on deaths and severe brain injuries suffered by motorcyclists in accidents without helmets — and on the costs of their medical care to taxpayers.

The fight resumes Tuesday, when the House Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on the latest bill, House Bill 700, which allows anyone 21 and up with medical or health insurance other than TennCare to ride without a helmet. The bill also prohibits police from issuing a citation for violating the helmet law unless a citation is issued for some other traffic violation.

Tennessee is one of 19 states plus the District of Columbia requiring all riders to wear helmets. Twenty-eight states require only underage riders, under either 18 or 21, to wear helmets. And Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire have no laws at all requiring helmet use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Most states enacted mandatory helmet laws the same year Tennessee did, after Congress required them to qualify for federal safety and highway funds. In the decades since, Congress has lifted the financial penalties, reimposed them and lifted them again.