Effort to repeal NC's motorcycle helmet law fails again

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comMay 15, 2013 

— A perennial push by freedom-loving motorcyclists fell short in the General Assembly again Wednesday when a House committee agreed only to study their request to roll back North Carolina’s requirement that all bikers wear safety helmets.

The House Transportation Committee had endorsed the original proposal, which would require helmets only for rookie motorcyclists and others younger than 21.

But the measure was doomed last week after a dozen white-coated emergency room doctors filed into a meeting room to warn the Judiciary B Committee that repealing the law for most riders would cause more deaths and serious head injuries, driving up medical costs for hospitals, taxpayers and families.

Republican and Democratic committee members chimed in with personal stories about brain-injured survivors of motorcycle crashes. After their discussion last week, no one on the committee offered a recommendation either to approve the helmets-optional bill or to kill it.

Its sponsor, motorcycle-riding Rep. John Torbett, a Republican from Gaston County, returned Wednesday to win the committee’s approval for a watered-down proposal to have the legislature study the helmet law and related medical and economic issues.

Elizabeth Hudgins of the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force said she was glad that legislators balked at the proposal to repeal the helmet requirement for most motorcyclists.

“It’s definitely good that people are paying attention to the many impacts it could have,” Hudgins said. She said young motorcyclists suffered more injuries after Florida repealed the ban for adult riders, citing evidence that younger riders there also stopped wearing helmets.

North Carolina motorcyclists who have tried to change the helmet law every two years over the past decade said they would make their case again if the General Assembly adopts the proposal for a legislative study.

Charlie Boone of Zebulon, state vice president of the Concerned Bikers Association, said he would use facts to counter what he called “half-truths and outright lies and numbers picked out of the air” by helmet advocates.

“As far as we’re concerned, it boils down to a matter of freedom of choice,” Boone said. “We try to present an honest picture of it, and that’s what we’re going to do, period. We’ll be back here every year until we get this.”

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/

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