Adversaries Butt Heads over Helmets

Motorcycles are the source of a lot of noise in North Carolina these days. But it is not the roar of Harleys you hear — it is the sound of legislative controversy.

The North Carolina legislature is inching ever closer to throwing out its universal helmet law, which requires all motorcycle riders in the state to wear a helmet. Instead, a bill passed by the House and sent to the Senate in May would enact a so-called partial helmet law, making helmets optional for riders over age 21 who have at least $10,000 in medical insurance coverage.

Whether that is a good thing depends on whom you ask. Motorcycle enthusiasts, by definition a somewhat free-spirited group, say adults should have the right to make safety decisions for themselves, without government intrusion. They also assert that claims that helmets save lives are exaggerated, and that there is actually little difference in cyclist fatalities between states with universal and partial helmet laws.

However, advocates of universal helmet laws, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, argue otherwise. Their claims:

  • North Carolina, one of only 19 states with universal helmet laws, currently has a higher rate of lives saved by helmet use than any other state.
  • When Florida switched to a partial-helmet law, fatalities among motorcyclists increased 55 percent, and paradoxically, nearly doubled for those under 21.
  • Most motorcyclists who end up in the hospital have medical bills in excess of the $10,000 insurance requirement. Taxpayers, they say, would be forced to make up the difference.
  • Universal helmet laws make it easier to assign fault in a motorcycle accident — not wearing a helmet automatically means you broke the law.

North Carolina motorcycle accident attorneys are concerned first and foremost with your safety. Whatever the legislature ultimately decides, please use your head when it comes to using a helmet.

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