Bikers packed a hearing room Thursday to testify on four bills that might mean changes for the two-wheeled motorists.
The biggest debate was over a new version of an old argument – to make helmets a requirement only for riders under 18. Twenty-six other states require all riders to wear helmets, 28 have moderated versions of the helmet law, and only 3 states have no law requiring helmets.
Donnie Lasman said that while helmet laws are supposed to actually reduce the number of deaths in accidents, it doesn’t seem to work that way.
“When we had the helmet law in Washington State repealed in 1977, for those years that we were helmet-free, our death-to-accident ratio, which means, how many accidents were there to how many deaths there were, was at 2.66 percent. Since the helmet law has been enacted, our death-to-accident ratio is up to 3.33 percent.”
One military veteran speaking in favor of the bill began his argument by quoting one of the founding fathers.
“Thomas Jefferson said ‘Laws provide against injury from others, but not from ourselves’,” said Richard Bright, a 26-year military veteran. “The crux of this issue is that the legislature is trying to protect us from our own behavior.”
But while the proponents had more numbers in attendance, the opposition had more statistics.
“Helmets decrease the severity of head injuries, the likelihood of death, and the overall cost of medical care.” said Dave Overstreet, representing AAA Washington. “Specifically, NTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent among riders, and 41 percent for passengers.”
Steve Lind of the Traffic Safety Commission also opposed the bill. He said that in 2012, the Center for Disease Control reported that when states repeal all or portions of helmet laws, helmet use decreases, and injuries, fatalities and costs increase.