The Missouri House has passed legislation that would allow motorcyclists to ride without wearing helmets.
House Bill 555 would lift the mandatory helmet requirement for motorcycle drivers and passenger who are at least 21 years of age or older. It would remain in effect for those under 21. The sponsor is Republican Rep. Eric Burlison from Springfield, he says the data he’s seen indicates that most motorcycle deaths are from torso injuries, not head trauma.
"At the end of the day, being on a motorcycle is an unsafe activity," Burlison said. "But, until we decide that we’re not gonna let people be on motorcycles, I think it’s folly to assume that a helmet changes anything when the data does not indicate otherwise."
State Representative Warren Love, a Republican from Osceola, is a motorcyclist and also backs the bill. He says Missouri's mandatory helmet law is causing many cross-country motorcyclists to avoid traveling through the Show-Me State.
"We're surrounded by states that (do) not have a helmet law," Love said. "If there's people out riding...they're gonna go down through Arkansas and journey around (us), and they're gonna bypass Missouri -- we're losing thousands and thousands of dollars because people aren't coming to Missouri because of our helmet law."
Fellow Republican Keith Frederick of Rolla, however, argued against the bill.
"These folks will end up in our emergency rooms – their debts, their medical care, will end up on the balance sheets of our hospitals in the bad debts section," Frederick said. "It’s basically not fair that the taxpayers and the rest of society has to underwrite this dangerous activity."
Frederick says he could have supported the bill if it had required un-helmeted motorcyclists to buy proper health coverage. The bill passed, but not by a large enough margin to overcome a potential veto from Democratic Governor Jay Nixon . He vetoed a similar bill four years ago.
It now heads to the Missouri Senate, with with just two weeks left in the 2013 legislative session.