House eases ATV helmet law

Posted March 23, 2011 3:01 p.m. EDT

The state House has approved a proposal to loosen helmet laws for ATV riders.

A measure passed in 2005 required all all-terrain vehicle riders to wear helmets and eye protection at all times, even on private property. House Bill 407 would roll that back, requiring safety protection for riders over 18 only when they're riding on a public street or highway, or other public areas.

Riders under 18 would still have to wear helmets and eye protection at all times, with one exception - riders over 16 could go without a helmet on the beach.

Some Democrats argued against loosening the law. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, said its original intent was public protection. He asked sponsor Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, whether he thought it was safer to operate an ATV on private property than on public property.

Moore argued it would be safer, because riders wouldn’t run into traffic. But he said his bigger concern is property rights. The ATV helmet law “was the first time we extended the state’s motor vehicle law to purely private property,” Moore said. “The basis for this is to right that wrong.”

“If a person chooses not to wear [a helmet], that’s their right,” Moore said. "We don’t need government telling everybody everything they should do. Government doesn’t always know best.”

The measure passed easily with bipartisan support, 86-28. It now heads to the Senate.