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State Senate rejects repeal of Motorcycle Helmet Law


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s motorcycles riders will have to wear their helmets for at least another year, as a bill in the State Senate to allow some riders to go without helmets failed Wednesday, March 29.

Senate Bill 549 would have allowed riders age 21 and older to ride without helmets if they carried insurance that met minimum standards. The bill failed by a 15-19 vote.

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said the bill should have been renamed the Organ Donor Act of 2017. Repealing the existing law requiring helmets would lead to an increase in medical bills and long-term care expenses for people with head injuries, and those expenses would end up being paid with taxpayer money, he said.

Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said she personally wants riders to wear helmets, but it is her duty as a legislator to allow people to live their lives as they choose.

“We cannot prevent people from making dumb decisions,” she said.

Repealing the helmet law would be a pro-tourism measure because some riders won’t come to West Virginia because of the helmet law, she said.

Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, asked how the state could require people in cars and trucks to wear seat belts if the state also considers riding a motorcycle without a helmet to be a matter of personal freedom.

Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said riding a motorcycle is a privilege, not a right, “and privileges come with conditions.”

Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, said motorcycle fatalities in Arkansas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan all increased significantly after those states repealed their helmet laws.

Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said he rides a motorcycle at low speeds on back roads. He said the proposed law would not have told people they could not wear a helmet, but it would have given them the choice of wearing one.

Echoing Rucker’s comments about tourism, Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, said his district has lots of open, crooked roads favored by riders and very little traffic. Out-of-state riders would bring in needed tourism dollars, so he urged support for the bill.

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