Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998

From: Terry Lee Cook tcook@ama-cycle.org AMA

Organization: American Motorcyclist Association

For Immediate Release

New Kentucky Helmet Law Raises Questions

Kentucky's revised helmet law, which took effect on July 15, has caused a great deal of confusion among both in-state and out-of-state riders, leaving motorcyclists unsure who must wear a helmet and who is exempt from the new law, reports the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

The uncertainty is the result of two different interpretations of the new statute, one put forth by the Kentucky Motorcycle Association (KMA), the organization that supported the passage of the law, and the other from the Kentucky State Police, who are enforcing the new helmet law. Jay Huber, the president of KMA, maintains that out-of-state motorcyclists who can show proof of health insurance coverage can ride helmetless in Kentucky. He also says the statute, as written, is unenforceable.

However, those views appear in contrast to those of state law enforcement officials. Legal counsel for the Kentucky State Police say that the only people eligible to ride without a helmet are Kentucky residents over the age of 21, who have more than one year's riding experience -- and who have shown proof of health insurance and obtained a helmet-use exemption sticker to display on their license plate.

Furthermore, state officials say only the registered owner of the motorcycle displaying the sticker can opt to ride without a helmet. All others -- passengers, out-of-state motorcyclists, people who borrow a motorcycle displaying a sticker -- must wear a helmet. The penalty for violating Kentucky's revised helmet law is a stiff fine, ranging from $100 to $500, and a 90-day license suspension.

The KMA has filed suit, claiming, among other things, that the new law is unconstitutional and unenforceable. However, in a recent hearing their request for a temporary injunction was denied. A trial is scheduled for later this summer.

In the meantime, motorcyclists should be advised that Kentucky authorities have vowed to strictly enforce the new law according to their current definition of the statute.

The American Motorcyclist Association is a 220,000-member non-profit organization. Established in 1924, the Association's purpose is to pursue, protect and promote the interests of motorcyclists, while serving the needs of its members. For more information, visit the AMA web site at http://www.ama-cycle.org.


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