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Tennessee's Motorcycle Helmet Law Will Not Change

Now that spring is finally here, more and more people here in Tennessee will be heading to their garages to take their favorite motorized vehicles — boats, jet skis, all terrain vehicles and, of course, motorcycles — out of storage and back into regular use.

Interestingly enough, state lawmakers recently considered a bill that would have introduced a significant change to the way people here in the Volunteer State ride their motorcycles.

Under Senate Bill 548, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), motorcyclists who are at least 25-years-old and have at least two years of experience riding would be able to apply for a special sticker authorizing them to ride without a helmet. In addition to the age and experience requirements, the bill would mandate that applicants must complete a motorcycle safety course and secure a set amount of insurance coverage.

Not surprisingly, the bill created significant controversy shortly after its introduction.

Proponents of the measure argued that the bill was long overdue in that it would finally give motorcyclists the opportunity to make their own decision concerning the use of a helmet, which may not always be the right fit for every rider.

“Honestly, it makes your head sweat and it can throw off your balance a little bit if you’re turning to the left, turning to the right. You go into a lean too far, makes a big difference,” said the member of one motorcycle club.

Opponents of the measure, however, argued that the passage of the law would not only cost more tax dollars but also more lives in motorcycle accidents. Indeed, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that the state’s current helmet law, which has mandated helmet use since 1967, is responsible for saving $94 million and 46 lives every year.

“Helmet use drops dramatically. It just plummets. Head injuries, those go up dramatically,” said an official with AAA Tennessee. “So we would be substantially reducing the safety of motorcycle riders, and everybody involved with motorcycle riders, and we would be going backwards in Tennessee.”

In recent developments, it appears as if the state’s helmet law won’t be changing anytime soon. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 6 to 5 to defeat SB 548.

What are your thoughts on the helmet law in Tennessee and SB 548? Are you happy it was voted down? Do you think it needs to be resurrected during the next legislative session?

Source: WBIR, “Proposed bill would weaken Tennessee’s helmet law,” Heidi Wigdahl, March 24, 2014; The Tennessean, “Senate panel votes to keep helmet requirement,” Chas Sisk, March 25, 2014

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