- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana motorcyclists still must wear helmets, without exceptions.

The Senate Transportation Committee killed a proposal Thursday by Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, that would have allowed people 21 and older to ride without a helmet if they complete a safety training course and hold a certain amount of liability insurance.

Walsworth said he wanted to “give a narrow way of allowing a person the option of wearing a helmet or not.” He said laws with similar exceptions have been enacted in Texas and Arkansas.

Supporters of such proposals talk of adults’ freedom to choose their level of risk. Some motorcycle enthusiasts also say that helmets impair vision and hearing and can contribute to accidents.

Critics of laws that allow people to shelve the helmet cite data that show wearing helmets saves lives and that states without mandatory helmet laws have higher percentages of fatalities in motorcycle crashes.

The committee didn’t wade into that discussion, however, instead quickly deciding to kill the bill with a 3-2 vote.

Louisiana is one of 19 states that require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, including the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Three states don’t have helmet requirements.

Legislators enacted Louisiana’s mandatory helmet law in 2004, five years after it had been repealed in 1999 at the behest of then-Gov. Mike Foster, an avid motorcyclist.

Since the mandatory law was re-enacted, lawmakers have regularly been asked to reconsider, but those bills have stalled. The Foster-backed law had allowed anyone over 18 to ride without a helmet if they had at least $10,000 of bodily injury insurance.

Voting against the bill were Sens. Sherri Smith Buffington, R-Keithville; Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville; and Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa.

Voting for the bill were Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton; and Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco.

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Online:

Senate Bill 406 can be found at www.legis.la.gov