Action Needed – Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Push for Helmet Laws

Push for Helmets
Reprinted with permission from the
Motorcycle Riders Foundation
October 20, 2015
 Right now, the push for motorcycle helmet laws is stronger than ever. It’s bigger than a handful of the usual government agencies pushing for mandatory helmet laws—it is that, of course—but there is another factor at work as well: child safety. It’s a very natural thing, the desire to protect children. Many skate parks, BMX parks, horse rides, go-carting, etc. all now require helmets for youngsters, and we are okay with that. So long as that attitude continues, the likelihood of keeping states helmet-law free gets slimmer.

Agencies and departments all over the country are pushing for helmet laws, and it’s getting nasty. Recently at the State Motorcycle Administrators annual conference the Vice President of Government Relations for the Governors Highway Safety Association, Erik Strickland, touted the benefits of an Obama-backed transportation plan that would have given back to the federal Department of Transportation the ability to lobby state legislatures about implementing helmet laws. Then in the next breath he referred to the language in the transportation bill currently working its way through Congress (and is likely to pass soon). Specifically, he called the language to stiffen the lobby ban so that it would apply to the whole of the federal government, state governments and local governments, “A real pain in the ass.” That bill also contains language that would commission a study to determine the best practices to avoid motorcycle crashes in the first place, thus saving lives instantly. Is that also a “real pain in the ass,” Erik Strickland? That, folks, is your governor’s direct pipeline for ideas for state law.

 In a recent publication by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, they had a two-page article about the actions the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken to enforce helmet laws by law enforcement officers. The proposed rule by the safety agency would effectively give law enforcement the ability to pull over and, after a visual inspection, ticket (or worse) any motorcyclist wearing a helmet that the officer felt did not meet the new appropriate standards. Should this rule become final—and that is almost a certainty at this point—any helmet that to a traffic cop appears to be less than one inch in thickness gives that cop the authority to pull you over for further inspection. Of course the Insurance Institute publication just echoed the same un-truths that all of the other safety groups march out. It is interesting and troubling that the agencies that are charged with making things safer—most of whom do not ride motorcycles—don’t care to listen to the very people they are trying to protect. Bureaucracy at its best.

Then to make things stranger, in the Wall Street Journal this week was an article about groups of bicyclists who are opposing mandatory bicycle helmet laws. They say mandatory helmet laws, particularly for adults, make cycling less convenient and seem less safe, thus hindering the larger public-health gains of more people riding bikes. They think that more bicycles on the street will result in a greater degree of visibility in numbers and therefore reduce injuries and fatalities. Cycling advocates are quick to say they’re not anti-helmet. Instead, they’re opposed to helmet laws and their unintended consequences. Sound familiar? Helmet laws make strange bedfellows.

But all is not lost. We need to stay engaged and active. We, the guardians of motorcycling, must do what those before us (and those before them) have done. A fight is brewing and we need to be ready. The forward force to pass mandatory helmet laws is swelling. We need to push back with a tidal wave.

To start that wave, you should email your new best friend, Erik “pain in the ass” Strickland, Vice President of Federal Relations for the Governors Highway Safety Association. You can reach him here: or give him a ring at his direct line, 202-789-0942 x180

Tell him the MRF sent you!

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