Ride a motorcycle without a helmet? It may become legal in WA

A new proposed law for riders over 21 years old
Ride a motorcycle without a helmet? It may become legal in WA

If you’re over 21, you may be able to ride a motorcycle without a helmet in Washington state. A state Senate committee in Olympia heard that proposal yseterday.

Shelly Baldwin, legislative and media coordinator with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, said the measure raises major concerns to the state of Washington.

“The helmet is the only thing that really is available to help (motorcyclists) become safer, so if we take that best practice away we will most likely see more fatalities, which cost everybody and moves us away from our goal of target zero,” said Baldwin.

According to Baldwin, Washington has a 96 percent helmet use rate, saving the state more than $552 million in economic and comprehensive costs.

The Northwest Insurance Council president Kenton Brine also came out against the bill as he testified in front of the Senate Transportation Committee on Monday. He explained that the bill “makes a false connection between helmets, injuries and insurance.”

“This bill’s proposed trade-off misses the mark, because liability insurance provides no coverage to treat injuries or repair bike damage for the insured motorcycle rider,” Brine said during his testimony. “It is not a good trade, because we’re likely to see more severe head injuries for riders without helmets, and liability insurance is not the policy they need to help pay to recover from their extensive, costly injuries.”

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick) said it gives motorcyclists an opportunity to make the decision about a helmet themselves.

“We’ve put parameters in the bill that if a person is 21 or older and operates a motorcycle without a helmet they need to carry a motor vehicle liability,” said Brown. “It is really about giving motorcyclists the freedom to ride. It’s about freedom to choose – it’s not mandating to do one thing or another. It’s really about the freedom.”

Senate Bill 5007 will still have to be voted on by the Senate Transportation Committee.

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