Motorcycle Riders May Soon Ride Helmet-Free

By Linda Ong |

Published 04/25 2014 10:48PM

Updated 04/25 2014 10:53PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Danne Roberts thinks riding a motorcycle is liberating, but not when he has to wear his helmet.

"I'm 70 years old," said Roberts. "I think I'm old enough to decide whether or not I need to wear a helmet."

He may soon get this choice. Current Missouri law requires every person operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle to wear protective headgear while is in motion. House Bill 1655 would lift the state's motorcycle helmet mandate for riders age 21 and older.

Sponsor of the bill Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Missouri) said it's an issue of freedom of choice.

"Even though I think wearing a helmet is the wise thing to do, it's not a proper function of government to tell an individual they have to wear a helmet," Burlison said.

Lori Minor teaches a motorcyclist course at Ozarks Technical Community College. She said motorcycle riders need to always prepare before they get on the road.

"The most important thing is the gear is to make sure you are prepared, protected, in case something does happen where it's out of your control, that you are protected so you have a helmet on," said Minor.

Many helmets approved by the Department of Transportation contain a piece of foam underneath an outer shell. It's this foam layer that can mean the difference between a minor and serious head injury.

"This absorption foam absorbs the energy of the crash," said Minor.

Velvet Scholtz, Director of Trauma Services at Mercy Hospital, said the number of motorcycle injury cases at the unit has increased significantly within the past two years.

"The primary injury that you see that we worry about the most is the head injury. Motorcyclists that are helmeted- their injuries are mid-body, extremities," said Scholtz. "But our unhelmeted- it's the head injury that they're most concerned about. It's the head injury that causes the majority of the fatalities and morbidities where these patients will be incapacitated for a lifetime."

But Roberts feels safer headgear-free.

"When I ride without a helmet, I slow down, I pay attention, I watch what's going around on me, I'm refreshed, I'm a much safer rider," he said.

Proponents of the bill also point out that current law hurts tourism because motorcycle riders look to travel to states where it is legal to ride without helmets.

The bill now moves on to the Senate.

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