Missouri's General Assembly is trying to pass a new law regarding motorcyclists. This bill, Senate Bill 202, was sent to the governor's office May 29 for Gov. Jay Nixon's approval.
There are three main parts of the bill. One part that some motorcycle enthusiasts are not so enthusiastic about is the helmet law that would require all drivers and passengers on motorcycles or motor-tricycles who are 21 or older to wear helmets on all interstate highways in Missouri. However, it is left to the driver and passenger's discretion, those who are 21 or older, as to whether or not to wear a helmet on any state highway.
Those who do not follow the law would be guilty of an infraction for which the fine would not exceed $25.
This new law would repeal 302.020 RSMo, which required all motorcyclists to wear helmets on all Missouri highways.
A partial supporter of the bill, Chairman Mark Chapman of the Freedom of Road Riders, wrote in a letter that he does not support the helmet part of the law. "We have taken on this issue because we believe that it is our right as citizens of this state to choose whether conditions merit the use of a helmet," he wrote. "It should not be a mandate from the state. The current helmet law was enacted in response to federal government blackmail. They said if you do not enact a helmet law you will lose federal highway funding, this is no longer the case."
The other part of the bill, however, Chapman said he does support. The other part of the bill insures that insurance agencies do not, in any way, penalize motorcyclists if they are in an accident for the sole reason of them riding a motorcycle instead of an automobile.
The bill states, "In any action to recover damages arising out of the ownership, common maintenance or operation of a motor vehicle, the fact that one of the parties was operating a motorcycle shall not, in and of itself, be considered evidence of comparative negligence. When investigating an accident of settling an automobile insurance policy claim, on insurer, agent, producer or claims adjuster of an insurer shall assign a percentage of fault to a party based upon the sole fact that the party was operating a motorcycle in an otherwise legal manner."
"We found out about this comparative fault when one of our members was notified that part of her claim was being denied because she would not have received the same injuries if she had been in a car even though the accident was 100 percent the other person's fault. That reason alone is enough for me to support this bill," Chapman wrote.
According to the General Assembly, supporters of the bill believe it will provide equal legal protection and justice to those choosing to ride a motorcycle legally and are involved in an accident at no fault of their own. There is a great deal of revenue lost in the state because motorcycle riders chose to leave the state to ride their bikes without a helmet or drive around the state on cross-country rides. The helmet law is an unjust interference by the government into the lives of adults who are capable of making the decision whether or not to wear a helmet. All but two of Missouri's bordering states and most states across the country have laws that don't require helmets on all roadways.
Those who oppose the bill say that repealing the helmet requirement will result in more injuries, more deaths and more medical costs to the state. The evidence shows that there are more serious injuries and more deaths in states that don't have mandatory helmet laws.