Bikers who want to ride with the wind in their hair made progress in the General Assembly today when a House committee approved a bill to peel back North Carolina’s motorcycle safety helmet requirement for some riders, on some roads.
Motorcyclists would be free to go bare-headed if they’re 21 or older and riding where the speed limit is 45 mph or slower, under a bill that passed on a 9-7 vote in the House Transportation Committee.
The helmet law got tougher in 2008 with a requirement that bikers wear helmets good enough to meet federal safety standards.
An official with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program offered evidence that better helmets are saving more lives: Motorcycle crashes grew in number last year, but motorcycle deaths decreased from 192 in 2007 to 142 in 2008.
And most of those deaths involved adult bikers. Only 13 fatalities involved motorcycle riders younger than 21.
Charles Boone, a spokesman for Concerned Bikers of America, told the committee that helmets become less effective as speeds rise higher than 15 mph.
The original bill contained only the age change. Rep. Cary Allred, an Alamance County Republican, added an amendment that would make helmets optional for over-21 bikers only when they are cruising in parades on roads with speed limits no higher than 45 mph.
Rep. Grier Martin, a Wake County Democrat, said Allred and Boone seemed to be at cross purposes.
“If helmets are most effective at lower speeds, that would seem to undercut the logic of this amendment” to require them only at high speeds, Martin said.
“I wish you hadn’t said that,” Allred replied.
Nonetheless, his amendment and the amended bill were approved in 9-7 votes.