State Helmet Law Suspended

10/30/01

By LINDA STEIN Staff Writer

FREEHOLD, NEW JERSEY -- Bikers who want to ride their motorcycles with the breeze blowing through their hair should start their engines.

Monmouth County Superior Court Judge William Gilroy issued a ruling Friday suspending enforcement of the state helmet law pending the adoption of new specifications in line with federal law.

Jason Buist of Manasquan and his passenger, Westfield resident Cheryl Mackey, filed a lawsuit challenging the law after receiving $25 tickets in July, said lawyer Jerry Friedman.

New Jersey's law requires riders to wear helmets chosen from a list approved by the director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles and that meet certain specifications, said Friedman. However, that list was never created and the specifications are contrary to those set under federal law, said Friedman.

"Most motorcyclists are aware that the helmet law in this state is defective," said Friedman, a Marlton attorney who specializes in motorcycle litigation.

"I'm not a proponent of not wearing a helmet," said Friedman. "I'm a proponent of choice for those people who'd like to wear no helmet. I think they should be given that choice."

Friedman, who rides a Harley-Davidson, said he wears a helmet and will continue to wear one.

Don't expect all bikers to shun their protective headgear.

"Helmets are good," agreed Patrick Gallagher of Ewing, a customer at Hamilton Yamaha.

Mike Firgone, who works at Mills Harley-Davidson in Burlington, said he always thought the choice to wear a helmet should be up to the individual.

"Speaking for myself personally, I've always felt helmets are a good choice," he said. But some helmets are heavy and can cause neck fatigue. Others can impair a rider's vision and hearing. In some settings like rural roads he would not wear a helmet, said Firgone.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, helmets are about 24 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. An unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than one wearing a helmet. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require riders to wear helmets.

Dana Sullivan, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, had not seen the ruling yesterday and could not say if an appeal was planned.

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The Times, Trenton, New Jersey
Link to attorney who argued the case: Jerry Friedman, Esq.
Monmouth County Superior Court Order

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