A bill proposed in Nashville this legislative session has been tough for us to wrap our heads around.
As written, House Bill 42 would start a four-year pilot program, during which motorcyclists older than 21 would not be required to wear a helmet when riding on public roadways.
It seems the sponsors would like to explore the effects of making crash helmets optional, but we’re not sure why. They’ve already been explored.
Multiple studies throughout the years have shown that wearing approved crash helmets reduce the risk of head injuries and fatalities for cyclists.
Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69% and lower the risk of death by 42%.
Currently, 29 states require helmets for specific riders, usually those under a certain age. Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire do not require helmets for any riders.
In 2020, states without universal helmet laws saw a 57% death rate among motorcyclists who were not wearing helmets, compared to 11% in states with universal helmet laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Tennessee, still operating under the universal helmet law enacted in 1967, only reported a 10% death rate for known un-helmeted riders.
Multiple studies of states that have repealed their motorcycle helmet law show an increase in rider deaths, serious and disabling brain injuries, and medical costs, which are usually borne by taxpayers and the state.
The repeal of all-rider motorcycle helmet laws has led to increased economic costs, including insurance premiums, in many states.
There’s no need for a pilot program for making helmets optional if other states have already done it work.
The data show helmets save Tennesseans’ lives, and our helmet law should be left alone.