Helmet law rollback moves forward

Posted March 26, 2013

— A bid to repeal the state's helmet law for adult motorcyclists took a major step forward Tuesday when the House Transportation Committee approved House Bill 109 on a voice vote.

The proposal would allow riders 21 and over to choose to ride without helmet as long as they have at least $10,000 in medical coverage in case of a wreck. The penalty for failing to have the required insurance would be a $25.50 ticket.

Bill sponsor Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, says 31 of 50 states have no helmet laws, and he called statistical differences between their motorcycle fatality rates and North Carolina's "minuscule." 

"That shows that the helmet's not the answer," Torbett said. "When it comes to factual data, it's just not supported."

AAA Carolinas' Tom Crosby took issue with Torbett's statistics. Crosby, president of the group's Foundation for Traffic Safety, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has rated North Carolina's helmet law the most effective in the country.

NC moves closer to changing helmet law NC moves closer to changing helmet law

Additionally, Crosby said, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls the helmet requirement "the best, most effective safety measure to prevent traffic deaths."   

When Florida recently passed a similar law, Crosby said, fatalities among motorcyclists under 21 nearly doubled. "And 75 percent of the ones who ended up in a hospital, their expenses were well over $10,000. It's very inadequate," he said. 

"When you're the safest in the nation, why would you want to change it?" he asked. "It boggles the mind."

There are an estimated 200,000 motorcyclists in North Carolina.

The bill's supporters say it's a question of freedom of choice. 

Helmet law goes before House committee House panel says adult motorcyclists don't need helmets

"If the person driving a motorcycle chooses not to wear a helmet and something happens, he's not hurting anybody but himself," said Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus.

Critics of the legislation say it's the state's taxpayers who end up footing the bill when a motorcyclist sustains a traumatic brain injury and becomes permanently disabled. 

But motorcyclists insist that most TBIs are caused by falls, pedestrian accidents and even auto accidents, and the state is already paying for those.

Concerned Bikers Association state vice president Charlie Boone said it's "a liberty issue."  

"Liberty is being able to chart your own course without fear of retribution from the state," Boone said after the hearing. "Helmets are not the answer. The education of motorists and motorcyclists is what saves lives." 

Boone dismissed concerns about the potential costs to taxpayers for motorcyclists' injuries.

"That's what insurance is all about – spreading the risk out between all the different groups," he said.

"If you're really concerned about safety," he added, "put helmets on everybody. There are risks in life. You have to choose what your risks are, and if you're 21 and over, you should be able to make that choice for yourself."

Some lawmakers expressed concern that the insurance requirement is too low and that the slight penalty for violating the law would not be much deterrent to younger riders. But the measure passed with bipartisan support. Its next stop is in the House Judiciary Committee.


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  • GravyPig Apr 4, 2013

    "I beleive in the right to choose. You libs are all about some choice when its your choice." - Crumps Br0ther

    So you support same sex marriage and Abortion? I mean you do believe in the right to choose. You are standing with us on these issues right? I can expect to see you at the Equality NC rally? I mean it's about choice.

    You can respond if you like. I'm not planning on going any further with this line of discussion as it derails the original discussion about helmets and safety. Sure it's gov't mandated safety, but some folk just don't even have the good sense that God gave a turnip.

    I think this phrase sums it up niceley: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." You can mandate helmet laws, but only some folks need the Gov't to tell them they need to wear them for safety. The rest of us wear helmets, use our seat belts, wear safety glasses when mowing the yard, etc...

  • Damien Thorne Apr 4, 2013

    The leading causes of TBI are:

    Falls (35.2%);
    Motor vehicle – traffic (17.3%);
    Struck by/against events (16.5%); and
    Assaults (10%).1


    Falls continued to be the leading cause of TBI (35.2%) in the United States. Falls cause half (50%) of the TBIs among children aged 0 to 14 years and 61% of all TBIs among adults aged 65 years and older.

    Motor Vehicle-Traffic Crashes1

    Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes and traffic-related incidents were the second leading cause of TBI (17.3%) and resulted in the largest percentage of TBI-related deaths (31.8%).

    Of the motor vehicle accidents only 3% involve motorcycles. Less than 1% involve road motorcycles. The others are dirt bikes.

    19 states have helmet laws, which leaves 31 states as part of those above numbers.

    Sorry, but facts refute your guesses.

  • Damien Thorne Apr 4, 2013

    ""If they change this law, then I want to repeal the seatbelt law cause I think it is a personal choice to wear one or not"

    "Spot on! That is a slippery slope. They repeal helmets, then seat belt laws should be repealed. Me, I'll still be wearing my seatbelt and if I get on a bike I'll be wearing a brain bucket."------GravyPig

    Amazing, you mean you could make your own choice to wear one........

    If you want to do it. If you do not then don't. There are some people that cannot wear seat belts due to medical conditions.

    How many people find they cause you pain when you wear them because they pull so tight?

    "The only reason some riders wear helmets is because of the law- but that helmet has saved their lives." - TS

    Not true at all. How many people have died with helmets on?

  • Damien Thorne Apr 4, 2013

    I have ridden for years without a helmet in SC. Regardless of what these holier than thou people think about it and say I have never suffered any injury.

    Most of the people who argue against this are people that have never ridden a bike, are completely ignorant of life, or are just scared they would wreck if they were on one.

    That is what choice is all about. Choose to wear a helmet if you want to. Choose not to wear a helmet if you want to.

    We face choices every day. The more we restrict the freedom to make choices the more you loose your freedoms in the name of governmental control, posed as making it safer for you.

    Meanwhile there is a liquor store on every corner where you can drink yourself to death or kill people by driving drunk. And no one says anything about that. Seems kind of stupid when you think about it, government forces you to wear a helmet in case the drunk driver they care nothing about hits you?

  • GravyPig Apr 4, 2013

    "With that said, it should be a choice as with everything else. Paternal laws are just another way for the government to tell you they know better than you do" - Crumpy

    Tell you what, lets put a helmet on your head and I'll throw you head first into a curb. Then we'll take it off and do the same. Which one will you survive?

    So yeah, the Gov't does know best in this instance. You think less protection for your brain is better?

  • GravyPig Apr 4, 2013

    "When I was 17, I hydroplaned while rounding a curve, lost control, flipped, and landed upside down in a ditch. I was hanging from my seat belt, which I had *just* put on. The ONLY reason I put it on was because the law had just passed requiring drivers to do so. That seat belt was the ONLY thing that kept me from flying out of the car. I believe the same concept applies to motorcyclists. The only reason some riders wear helmets is because of the law- but that helmet has saved their lives." - TS

    That reminds me of a yound college student out west who was opposed to the seat belt law. He was riding back with friends after the rally when their SUV rolled over. He was killed, his friends who were for some reason wearing their seatbelts were fine.

    There are cases where the seatbelt caused injury, and cases where they saved lives. Moto Helmets have similar stories. I've already read one here where "if my helmet strap hadn't broken, then my neck would have".

  • GravyPig Apr 4, 2013

    "Been riding for years and I would like to have the CHOICE to wear a helmet or not wear a helmet."

    It's your head on the line champ.

    "I am fully insured and take motorcycle riding seriously, i.e. classes and appropriate attire."

    But not serious enough to wear ALL the safety equipment? So I guess you don't take it as seriously as you say you do.

  • GravyPig Apr 4, 2013

    "If they change this law, then I want to repeal the seatbelt law cause I think it is a personal choice to wear one or not"

    Spot on! That is a slippery slope. They repeal helmets, then seat belt laws should be repealed. Me, I'll still be wearing my seatbelt and if I get on a bike I'll be wearing a brain bucket.

  • dwntwnboy2 Apr 1, 2013

    If this passes, then they need to end the seatbelt laws as well. They are both a matter of "choice" as stated in the article. Seems like a bad idea to me personally.

  • rroadrunner99 Mar 28, 2013

    If they want the helment law repealed, then increase the insurance coverage to catastrophic coverage to cover a brain injury. Then increase the fine to $1,000.00 for first offense for underage drivers violating the law going up a $1,000 with each additional offense.Take it or leave it...Just my opinion...