An attempt to repeal a Tennessee law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets has been parked for the year. Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, decided last month to withdraw legislation to end helmet requirements for adult riders.
Matheny and other supporters of the repeal question the safety benefits of helmets. Even so, proponents of the law say accidents suggest it’s time for state officials to take more forceful measures to remind motorcyclists that wearing a helmet in Tennessee is not just a good idea — it’s the law.
The U.S. Department of Transportation released figures a few years ago that show motorcycle death rates have more than doubled in the past decade. While motorcycles represent just 2.5 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States, more than 11.3 percent of all traffic deaths involve a motorcycle.
With rising fuel prices resulting in more scooters and cycles on the nation’s highways, federal officials have begun to push for a national training standard for motorcyclists. These standards would require that beginner riders achieve a certain level of proficiency on their bikes before taking to the highways.
The federal initiative also reminds motorcyclists to wear their helmets on the highway. Studies indicate that wearing a helmet can help motorcyclists reduce their risk of head injury in crashes by up to 85 percent. Federal highway safety officials have even reported a helmet can help protect a rider from brain injury by up to 88 percent.
Safety officials say there are two very compelling reasons not to repeal the helmet law. One is the fact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 45 percent of motorcycle drivers killed in highway crashes were not wearing helmets. The second is a report prepared by the state General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee in 2007 that found the rate of head injuries increased by 80 percent in Florida and 77 percent in Kentucky after those states repealed their mandatory helmet laws.
Tell us what you think. Do you think repealing Tennessee’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law for adults is a good idea? Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.orgâ€‰ . Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.