Gov. Parson signs bill repealing helmet law

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ST. LOUIS – Some motorcyclists in Missouri will no longer be required to wear a helmet beginning August 28, 2020.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed House Bill 1963 inside the capitol Tuesday afternoon, repealing Missouri helmet laws.

“The governor signed a bill we’ve been waiting on for 39 years,” said Joe Widmer, legislative coordinator for Freedom of Road Riders.

The bill stated, “Any qualified motorcycle operator who is twenty-six years of age or older may operate a motorcycle or motor tricycle upon any highway of this state without  wearing protective headgear if he or she in addition to maintaining proof of financial responsibility in accordance with chapter 303, is covered by a health insurance policy or other forms of insurance which will provide the person with medical benefits for injuries  incurred as a result of an accident while operating or riding on a motorcycle or motor tricycle.”

Under those provisions,  motorcycle riders do not need to keep a helmet on while they are riding through Missouri and the change also means law enforcement can’t pull over motorcyclists just to check to see if they are following the new helmet laws.

Riders with instructional permits must still wear helmets.

“The riders should have the opportunity to choose how they want to ride and have a right to choose if they want to wear a helmet or not, we’re not trying to advocate that nobody should wear one, we are advocating for freedom of choice here,” said Tony Shepherd, lobbyist for ABATE for Missouri.

Cathy Chase, president for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released a statement after Governor Parson signed the bill Tuesday.

The statement said in part, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) along with a coalition of Missouri-based health and safety experts and organizations provided research, facts, and figures to try to prevent this outcome, and we are gravely disappointed by the Governor’s ill-advised decision.  Common sense was sidelined by the agenda of a vocal minority with a mantra of “let those who ride decide” instead of keeping roads safe, not further over-burdening emergency rooms, and ultimately “letting those who pay have a say.”  Public health and fiscal sense took a back seat today.”

The statement went on to say, “the Governor’s decision is especially disappointing given overwhelming evidence showing the safety benefits of motorcycle helmet use – with the risk of head injury reduced by 69 percent and risk of death lowered by 42 percent.”

Shepherd said he knows not everyone is for the bill he’s been pushing for, for decades.

“There’s been a ton of people for it and against it – your lawyers, doctors, hospitals, we’ve had insurance companies testify against it,” he said.

However, Shepherd said Governor Parson’s signature on House Bill 1963 is also a win for the tourism industry, so motorcyclists don’t travel around Missouri to avoid the soon-to-be-former helmet requirement.

“He’s made a lot of motorcyclists not only in Missouri but around the nation really happy, for tourism dollars, being able to travel through Missouri now a lot less restrictions,” he said.

The addition of repealing helmet laws onto House Bill 1963 was a buzzer-beater. Widmer said this section of the bill was added on the last day of the session.

House Bill 1963 consists of much more than the new helmet law. It also includes the following, to highlight a few:

Bans eminent domain in regard to a “tube transport system”

A public right-of-way necessary for the expansion of Interstate 70 cannot be materially impeded by or transferred to a public-private partnership for the purpose of constructing a tube transport system.

“The portion of State Highway 7 from County Road 221 West continuing to Calvird Drive in the city of Clinton in Henry County shall be designated as “Police Officer Christopher Ryan Morton Memorial Highway”.”

“The portion of State Highway 13 from State Highway 52 West continuing 2 to Calvird Drive in the city of Clinton in Henry County shall be designated as “Police 3 Officer Gary Lee Michael, Jr. Memorial Highway”.”

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