Lawmakers discuss changing law requiring motorcycle helmets

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee lawmakers are discussing once again changing the law requiring all motorcycle riders wear a helmet.

Senator Kerry Roberts, a Republican from District 25, introduced a bill that would keep motorcyclists under 21 wearing helmets but would leave the decision up to anyone over 21.

“I think as a society we gradually accepted the notion that the government is going to tell us what to do and when to do it and how to do it,” Roberts told News 2.

Sen. Roberts added, “This is a great example of something where we can push back and say we’re adults, we’re thinking people, we ought to be able to make the decisions that affect our life.”

Tennessee Legislature has discussed similar bills in recent years, but they’ve all been defeated.

The medical community stands against any change citing a public health risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites statistics that show helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent.

The groups also note that after Kentucky made helmets optional fatalities rose by 50 percent. However, Sen. Roberts said motorcycle registrations also increased by 50 percent and that the fatality to riders remained roughly the same.

Motorcyclists who spoke to News 2 said while they choose to wear helmets, they believe the choice should be left up to the rider.

“In my opinion, it’s kind of like a seatbelt,” said motorcyclist Ken Jenkins. “I don’t like for somebody to tell me I’ve got to do something. If I want to wear my helmet, if I want to wear my seatbelt for safety, that should be my own right.”

Motorcyclist Larry Welch said he wears his helmet even when riding in states that allow riders the option.

“I think it’s safer to ride with a helmet,” he said. “I don’t intend to give mine up, especially on long trips, but close to home I might take mine off occasionally.”

Thirty states give riders the option. Tennessee is one of 20 that make helmets mandatory for all riders.

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