Local News

Bikers Support Bill That Would Give Them The Choice To Wear Helmets

Posted April 19, 2005 7:32 a.m. EDT

— A debate over freedom of choice and safety is heating up again at the state legislature.

A N.C. House member wants to give adult motorcycle riders the choice to go helmet-free, but opponents say it is a dangerous move for drivers and is costly to others.

Under North Carolina law, helmets are required when riding motorcycles.

Motorcycle owner Duke Durham disagrees with the law. He said he does not think he cannot get hurt, but he just wants to choose whether he will wear a helmet.

"The biggest issue here is just a biker's right to choose," Durham said. "[It's the] same with seatbelt laws. It's not that I would not wear my seatbelt or that I would not wear my helmet. It's that I don't want anybody telling me that I have to. I'm an adult."

Durham and many bikers like the proposed law, which gives anyone over 21 years old the right to decide.

"Most of us are responsible adults who, once we reach the age of 21, are free and able to make a decision for ourselves," said Ron Paul, who also rides a motorcycle.

But Faye Thompson, a former hospital worker, said she wants helmets required.

"Accidents aren't something you plan anyway," she said. "So it doesn't have anything to do with intelligence or maturity or age."

Even if riders get a choice, no one knows how many will actually hang up their helmets.

All but four states now require some or all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Colorado, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire have no helmet laws at all.

Since 1997, five states have changed their laws to apply only to younger riders. Those states are Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Texas.