May 30, 1997
TEXAS HELMET-LAW REPEAL SENT
TO GOVERNOR - AMA RAISES CONCERNS
Legislation that would repeal a mandatory helmet-use law covering motorcyclists in Texas has been passed by state legislators and sent to Gov. George W. Bush for his consideration. However, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has raised concerns about the potential effects of amendments tacked onto that repeal bill.
As originally drafted, Senate Bill 99 would have made helmet use voluntary for adult motorcyclists age 18 and older, although the legislation was later amended to require helmet use for all riders under the age of 21. Many states currently have helmet laws covering minors in one of those two age categories.
Another amendment to the bill has the potential to set a dangerous precedent, however. That amendment would allow motorcyclists to ride without helmets only if they either complete a rider-education course or purchase a minimum of $10,000 in personal medical insurance. Compliance with the proposed law would be determined by special license-plate stickers that the state would issue to motorcyclists meeting those standards. Motorcyclists from other states passing through Texas would be ineligible to receive stickers.
The AMA, which represents 215,000 motorcyclists nationwide and over 8,000 living in Texas, has raised concerns about those provisions, which would essentially compel motorcyclists to take actions above and beyond those required of other motor-vehicle operators.
"We have a long history of supporting legislation that allows adult riders to evaluate the risks and decide personal safety issues for themselves," noted Robert Rasor, vice president of AMA government relations. "But we are constantly fighting attempts by various groups to characterize motorcyclists as a 'social burden' because of the perceived risks involved in riding.
"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," he added. "But this legislation, as amended, would institutionalize the social burden concept in Texas by requiring one group of highway users to be more responsible than others before taking to the road."
Rasor noted that this legislation, if approved, is certain to be noticed by legislators in other states, who may seek similar restrictions on motorcyclists.
"While we favor the repeal of mandatory helmet laws,'' concluded Rasor, " we are concerned about the cost of this measure to motorcyclists in Texas and across the country."
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.
Contact: Chris Kallfelz
Phone: (614) 891-2425
Fax: (614) 891-5012