New Law Institutionalizes the Social Burden Concept
AMA Press Release - June 24, 1997

A controversial bill to repeal a mandatory helmet law covering motorcyclists in Texas has been signed into law by Gov. George W. Bush, reports the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

The bill, which was signed into law June 20 and will take effect Sept. 1, eliminates the mandatory helmet requirement for motorcyclists 21 and over. But an amendment added to the measure has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for motorcyclists in Texas and elsewhere.

That amendment would allow motorcyclists to ride without helmets only if they either complete a rider-education course or provide proof that they have a minimum of $10,000 in personal medical coverage. Compliance with that amendment will be determined by special license-plate stickers the state will issue to motorcyclists who meet those provisions. Out-of-state riders traveling through Texas would be ineligible to receive stickers and would be required to wear helmets.

The AMA, representing 215,000 motorcyclists nationwide and more than 8,000 in Texas, has expressed concern that, as amended, this law mandates that motorcyclists must assume statutory obligations not required of other motor-vehicle operators, who face no similar training or insurance provisions. As such, it promotes the allegation that motorcyclists are a greater burden to society than other groups of highway users.

"While we support the repeal of mandatory helmet laws," said Robert Rasor, vice president of government relations for the AMA, "the AMA is concerned about the costs associated with this bill for motorcyclists in Texas, and the precedent it sets for other states.

"For years," Rasor added, "we've fought attempts to characterize motorcyclists as a social burden. Studies have shown repeatedly that motorcyclists are at least as likely to be insured as other highway users and that they don't rely more heavily on public funds to pay for medical treatment. But this new law institutionalizes the social burden concept in the state of Texas."

The American Motorcyclist Association is a 215,000-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.

Sean M. Maher
AMA Government Relations

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