ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
Kevin Murray, Chairman
AB 1412 (Ducheny) - As Introduced: February 28, 1997
SUBJECT: Motorcycles: helmets: drivers
SUMMARY: This measure exempts drivers and passengers which are 18 years of
age or older from the requirement to wear safety helmets while riding
motorcycles, motor-driven cycles and motorized bicycles.
EXISTING LAW requires all drivers and passengers to wear safety helmets while
riding motorcycles, motor-driven cycles (mopeds), and motorized bicycles.
FISCAL EFFECT: Unknown potential increase public costs for short- and
long-term medical care to treat, rehabilitate and maintain head-injured
motorcycle riders and passengers which have no insurance or when costs exceed
COMMENTS: The requirement for all motorcycle riders to wear safety helmets
was enacted on January 1, 1992, by AB 7 (Floyd), Chapter 32, Statutes of 1991.
Since that time, legislation to repeal or limit the requirement to younger
riders has been introduced every year, and to date, has failed to pass out of
Generally, the proponents of repealing or limiting the helmet requirements
have argued that better rider training, including that required by law for
license applicants 18 years of age and younger, and a decline in the number of
motorcycle riders due primarily to the helmet requirement, are responsible for
a decline in the number of motorcycle accidents and fatalities.
Opponents of the repeal or restriction of the helmet requirements cite
California Highway Patrol (CHP) statistics and studies conducted by the UCLA
School of Public Health which indicate that fatalities and the severity of
head-related injuries in motorcycle accidents have declined significantly
since the enactment of the law, and express concern about the amount of public
funding necessary to provide short- and long-term care for uninsured or
under-insured injured riders.
California Motorcycle Safety Program The CMSP was enacted in 1986, and
provides training for new motorcycle drivers. Subsequent legislation requires
applicants for motorcycle driver licenses to complete the CMSP prior to
issuance of a license.
The CMSP annual report cites a continuing decline in the number of motorcycle
accidents and fatalities declining from a peak of 40 to 12 accidents per 1,000
riders. Accidents among younger drivers under 25 years of age have declined
from 146 to 72 accidents per 1,000 riders.
According to the report, fatalities among all riders declined 67 percent, and
among riders under 18 years of age, 88 percent, between 1986 and 1995.
During the same period, motorcycle registrations declined 25 percent.
Proponents cite the apparent success of the CMSP as the factor responsible for
the declining number and severity of accidents, and not the statutory helmet
Decline in Registration: Since 1985, motorcycle registrations have declined
in California from a high in of just over 700,000 in 1986 to the current level
of about 500,000. According to the CMSP annual report, this long-term trend
may be attributable to an aging population, changing attitudes and other
Proponents of this measure, however, claim that the enactment of the safety
helmet requirement in 1992 is responsible for a continuing decline in the
sale, registration and use of motorcycles in California which has a financial
impact to the state by reducing registration fees, sales tax and other
UCLA Study: The UCLA Southern California Injury Prevention Research Center
conducted a study in 1994, intended to show the impacts of the enactment of
the helmet requirements in California. The study was funded by the California
Office of Traffic Safety and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and
involved the CHP, the California Coroner's Association, the Emergency Medical
Service Authorities of 11 counties, and 28 hospitals, and was published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association. It found, in part:
Opponents cite these statistics, noting that the decline in fatalities and
severe head-related injuries was much greater than the reduction in accidents
or motorcycle registrations.
Public Costs: Opponents of this measure cite the continuing increase in the
costs of providing public health services to those who are uninsured or under-
insured for medical services. They claim that the repeal or reduction in the
age requirement for helmet use will increase the demand for publicly-funded
short- and long-term health care.
In one study, the University of California Davis Medical Center determined
that 82 percent of the hospital charges for motorcycle head injuries were paid
with public funds, and that 75 percent of the patients surveyed had no health
In another study, the San Diego County Trauma Registry found that 40 percent
of the costs of treating injured motorcyclists who failed to wear helmets was
paid by public funds in the period 1988-90.
REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:
ABATE #34 Hanford Chapter
California Motorcycle Dealers Association
California Motorcyclist Association
Inaternational House of Pancakes #688, Sonoma
Northern California Harley-Davidson Dealers' Association
Southern California Harley-Davidson Dealers Association
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Association of Insurance Companies
Automobile Club of Southern California
California Medical Association
California Rehabilitation Association
California State Automobile Association
California State Chapter, American College of Emergency Physicians
Kaiser Permanante Medical Care Program
Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
Organization of Area Boards on Developmental Disabilities
Personal Insurance Federation
St. Jude Medical Center
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
State Farm Insurance Companies
United Cerebral Palsy Associations
Analysis prepared by: John Stevens / atrns / (916)445-8800
Helmet use increased in California from 50 percent prior to
enactment of the helmet law to over 95 percent afterwards.
Between 1991 (pre-helmet law) and 1992 (post-helmet law),
statewide fatalities in motorcycle accidents declined 37.5 percent.
Non-fatally injured riders treated in the sample hospitals decreased
Head injuries among fatally and non-fatally injured riders decreased
over 50 percent.
The overall number of cervical spine injuries did not change.
Over 80% of the injured riders were over the age of 21.