Motorcycling News

Missouri Just Loosened Its Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Written by  Brandi Ivy January 1, 2021

A new law that went into effect in Missouri in late August loosens restrictions on wearing motorcycle helmets, but many are wondering if it is a good idea. As part of the transportation bill HB1963, the new law will no longer require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Instead, it will allow riders over the age of 26 to ride without one if they choose. 

 

The new law was opposed by many safety groups, including the National Association of the State Motorcycle Safety Administrators’ Policy and Research Committee, the National Safety Council, and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Opponents pointed out how difficult it would be to enforce the new law, as police would not be able to determine from a distance whether a rider is over 26. In addition, the previous time the state loosened helmet restrictions in 2012, non-helmet related fatalities quadrupled. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), someone riding a motorcycle is 28 more times likely to die in an accident than someone riding in a passenger vehicle. Helmets are the most effective way to prevent these fatalities as well as serious traumatic brain injuries. The rate of fatalities is 10 times higher in states without universal helmet laws. 

Despite this fact, less than half of states have universal helmet laws. Most state laws require some riders to wear helmets, such as riders over a certain age. For instance, in Florida, a rider does not have to wear a helmet if they are over 21 and carry an insurance policy with at least $100,000 in medical coverage. New Hampshire is the only state that has no helmet laws whatsoever. The Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) urges all states to adopt universal laws, but it is still decided on a state-by-state basis.

Not only do helmets save lives, but they also reduce health care costs and save taxpayer dollars. Also, the choice not to wear a helmet can affect a rider’s insurance premium and their ability to recover damages in an accident. Some insurance companies will increase the monthly premium amount if an insured rider tells them that they always wear a helmet, and then are found not to be wearing one in an accident. 

State laws vary in whether a rider’s helmet use (or lack thereof) can be brought up in a personal injury claim. In states with universal helmet laws, not wearing a helmet can be considered negligence on the part of the rider. Even in states with less stringent restrictions, not wearing a helmet can reduce the amount of damages an injured rider can collect. They might not be able to collect on head injuries that could have been prevented had they been wearing a helmet, or their settlement total may be reduced by the % they are deemed to be at fault. Most personal injury attorneys strongly recommend wearing a helmet that meets the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) standards at all times while riding a motorcycle, whether or not it is required by law. 

Still, proponents of the new Missouri bill argue that the choice of whether or not to wear a helmet is a matter of freedom. In mid-July, when the new bill was signed into effect, members of Freedom of the Road Riders who were present at the Capitol for the signing cheered. However, the freedom they celebrated comes at the price of more deaths and higher taxes for all the people of Missouri.