- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska lawmaker hopes the Legislature’s 18 freshmen, some with Libertarian leanings, are enough to win a motorcycle helmet debate that’s lasted for decades.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins proposed legislation that would repeal Nebraska’s helmet law for motorcyclists, with the justification that motorcyclists should have the right to choose.

“People should have the right to decide what affects them,” Bloomfield said. “It’s not like you’re going to cause a wreck because you didn’t have a helmet.”

Lawmakers have tried to repeal the 1989 helmet law since its implementation.

In 2010, the bill drew a 27-vote majority but failed to hit the 33 needed to end a filibuster. Last year, a version of the bill that would have exempted riders older than 21 from the helmet law also failed to get enough votes to break a filibuster.

Bloomfield said 18 new senators in this year’s unicameral have the potential to advance the bill, calling them “more in touch with the people” who are “getting tired of the government telling them what to do.”

But first the bill must advance through the transportation and telecommunications committee, which has four new members. Chairman Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion said the vote will be close.

At the public hearing Monday, the law’s opponents said that Nebraska loses millions of dollars in revenue from thousands of bikers who choose to avoid the state when traveling to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, rather than deal with Nebraska helmet laws.

Nineteen states require all motorcyclists to wear helmets but of Nebraska’s bordering states, only Missouri has such a law.

Motorcyclists told the committee many would still wear helmets, but they don’t like the idea of being forced to do so. Scott Hoffman of Lincoln said motorcyclists who ride without helmets should be allowed to actively seek the thrill of danger.

“It’s like getting on a roller coaster riding down the road,” Hoffman said. “My self-awareness is 10-fold.”

The law’s advocates say helmet use is the only strategy proven to reduce motorcycle fatalities. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found helmets reduce the likelihood of dying from a crash by 37 percent.

Heather Talbott, trauma outreach injury prevention coordinator at Bryan Health, showed the committee pictures of a banged-up helmet from a motorcyclist who had crashed. Talbott said the rider was in stable condition at the trauma center because the helmet took the impact.

Bloomfield said he would support an amendment this year, like past versions, which would have imposed age limits on helmet use.

The committee took no action on the bill Monday.


The bill is LB31.

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