Each year in Annapolis, Maryland, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts petition the Maryland General Assembly to relax mandatory helmet laws for older, responsible, and educated riders. Although similar measures have failed repeatedly since 1996, motorcycle rider and Senator John Astle (Democrat) is still fighting for greater freedom for riders despite the safety concerns of helmet-free bike riding.
The proposed change would allow motorcycle riders over 21 who either have two years of licensed motorcycle experience or take an approved safety course approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation ride without a helmet if they wish. Those driving larger, three-wheeled motorcycles with enclosed cabs would also have the option to go without a helmet, as would motorcycle passengers.
The helmet law bill, which was heard on Tuesday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, would also require the Motor Vehicle Association to conduct more (and better) research on motorcycle accidents, motorcycle injuries, and motorcycle fatalities in Maryland.
Those who oppose the motorcycle helmet bill include medical professionals, the Maryland Sheriff’s Association, and State Farm Insurance, all of whom agree that the changes in the Maryland mandatory helmet law would increase motorcycle head injuries, motorcycle fatalities, and insurance premiums. In 2007, 41 percent of the injured motorcycle riders and 53 percent of fatally injured passengers were not wearing helmets.
The opposition also pointed to other states that had changed their mandatory motorcycle helmet laws and saw dramatic increases in motorcycle accident serious injury and death.
The bill is not likely to pass.