West Virginia motorcycle helmet bill runs out of time

Motorcyclists and their passengers are required to wear a helmet in West Virginia, but that would have changed if bills recently introduced in both the Senate and the House had been passed and signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice. Senate Bill 153 and House Bill 2070 would have allowed West Virginia residents who have held a motorcycle license for two years or longer and are at least 21 years of age to operate a motorcycle or ride as a passenger without a helmet.

The bills were introduced on Jan. 9 and then submitted to the Committee on Technology and Infrastructure. The measures failed to reach a vote on Jan. 20 because time ran out after two hours of questions. The delegate who sponsored the house bill claimed in a television interview that not wearing a helmet could actually make riding a motorcycle safer. He said that helmetless riders would be more aware of their surroundings and ride more carefully as they would be deprived of the feeling of invulnerability that helmets provide.

This view is not shared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency says that wearing a helmet is the best defense riders have against a traumatic brain injury. Insurance industry data also supports helmet use. When Michigan lifted the helmet requirement in 2012, insurance claims rose by 22%.

Experienced personal injury attorneys could give motorcyclists in West Virginia another good reason to wear helmets. Under the state's comparative negligence law, individuals who file lawsuits after being involved in an accident may be awarded reduced damages if the facts reveal that they are partly to blame. Not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle and not fastening a seat belt when behind the wheel of a car are examples of negligent behavior that could lead to reduced lawsuit damages.

Source: Metro News, "Motorcycle helmet bill discussed, no vote", David Beard, Jan. 21, 2019

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