Federal Bureaucrats Push for Helmet Law Authority

October 18, 2015


Right now, the push for motorcycle helmet laws is stronger than ever. Its bigger than a handful of the usual government agencies pushing for mandatory helmet laws , It is that of course too, but there is another factor at work as well. And its a very natural thing to happen, the desire to protect children. Many skate parks, bmx parks, horse rides, go carting, etc all now require helmets for youngsters, and we are ok with that. So long as that the continues the likely hood of keeping states helmet law free gets slimmer.

But it certainly is coming from agencies and departments all over the country, and its getting nasty. Recently at the State Motorcycle Administrators annual conference the Vice President of Government Relations for the Governors Highway Safety Association, Erik Strickland, touted the benefits of an Obama backed transportation plan that would have given the federal Department of Transportation back the ability to lobby state legislatures about implementing helmet laws. Then in the next breath, he referred to the language in the transportation bill currently working its way through Congress, and is likely to pass soon, Specifically he called the language to stiffen the lobby ban to the whole of the federal government, state governments and local governments,”A real pain in the ass”.

That bill also contains language that would commission a study to determine the best practices to avoid motorcycle crash in the first place. Saving lives instantly.

Is that also “a real pain in the ass” Erik Strickland? That's your governors direct pipeline for ideas for state law.

In recent publication by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety they had a two page article about the actions that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken to enforce helmet laws by law enforcement officers. The proposed rule by the safety agency would effectively give law enforcement the ability to pull over, ticket, or worse, any motorcyclists wearing a helmet that the officer felt did not meet the new appropriate standards with a visual test on the road. So, should this rule become final, and that is almost a certainty at this point, any helmet that appears, to a traffic cop, to be less than one inch in the thickness can pull you over for further inspection. Of course the Insurance Institute publication just echoed the same un-truths that all of the other safety groups march out.

It is interesting and troubling that the agencies that are charged with making things safer, most who don't ride motorcycles, do not care to listen to the very people they are trying to protect. Bureaucracy at its best.

Then, in the Wall Street Journal this week was an article where groups of bicyclists are opposing mandatory bicycle helmet laws. They say mandatory helmet laws, particularly for adults, make cycling less convenient and seem less safe, thus hindering the larger public-health gains of more people riding bikes. They think that more bicycles on the street will result in greater degree of visibility in numbers and therefore reduce injuries and fatalities. Cycling advocates are quick to say they're not anti-helmet. Instead, they're opposed to helmet laws and their unintended consequences. Sound familiar? Make strange bedfellows.

For all is not lost. We need to stay engaged and active. We, the guardians of motorcycling, must do what those before us and those before them have done. A fight is brewing and we need to be ready. The forward force to pass mandatory helmet laws is swelling. We need to push back with a tidal wave.

To start that wave you should call your new best friend Erik Strickland, Vice President of Federal Relations for the Governors Highway Safety Association on his direct line at 202-789-0942 (ext-180); or email him at: Ed Strickland © MRF