FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 14, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, on Enactment of H.B. 1963, Repealing Missouri’s All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law
Deadly decision replaces lifesaving countermeasure with unenforceable law
Today, Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) allowed the state’s 52-year-old all-rider motorcycle helmet law to be repealed by signing House Bill (HB) 1963 into law. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) along with a coalition of Missouri-based health and safety experts and organizations provided research, facts and figures to try to prevent this outcome, and we are gravely disappointed by the Governor’s ill-advised decision. Common sense was sidelined by the agenda of a vocal minority with a mantra of “let those who ride decide” instead of keeping roads safe, not further over-burdening emergency rooms, and ultimately “letting those who pay have a say.” Public health and fiscal sense took a back seat today.
Research and experience find that because of this decision, all Missourians will bear significant burdens. After Michigan weakened its universal helmet requirement in 2012, the percentage of non-helmeted crash scene fatalities quadrupled. The state also experienced a 14 percent increase in motorcyclist trauma patients who were hospitalized with a head injury. Similarly, when Florida repealed its all-rider helmet law in 2000, fatalities jumped 21 percent (per 10,000 registered motorcycles). Deaths of riders under the age of 21 who were not helmeted increased 188 percent, even though the law still applied to them.
The measure repealing Missouri’s all-rider requirement replaces it with a law that is “toothless” for all intents and purposes. Age-specific helmet laws, as will result in Missouri due to a provision in HB 1963, are ineffective, unenforceable and unpopular. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in states with weak youth-specific helmet laws, helmet use has decreased, and youth mortality has increased. Serious traumatic brain injury among youth was 38 percent higher in states with age-specific laws compared to states with all-rider helmet laws. Enforcing laws for only young riders is problematic and often ignored completely since it is difficult for law enforcement to estimate a rider’s age. Additionally, police officers will not be able to determine if a rider holds the required proof of financial responsibility and a health benefit plan without pulling them over.
The Governor’s decision is especially disappointing given overwhelming evidence showing the safety benefits of motorcycle helmet use – with risk of head injury reduced by 69 percent and risk of death lowered by 42 percent. In 2018, there were nine times as many unhelmeted fatalities in states without a universal helmet law compared to states with one (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)). And according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proved to be effective in reducing motorcyclist fatalities.” The public understands the importance of this proven safeguard, with the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index finding that more than 4 in 5 Americans (82%) support a law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet.
The repeal of the all-rider helmet law will have ripple effects across the state of Missouri. More riders will choose to leave their helmets at home, resulting in more unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities and injuries. These preventable tragedies will in turn upend the lives of their families and increase health care costs for all Missourians. We hope this imprudent policy change will be reversed in the future and the state’s universal helmet requirement will be restored.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.