State Debates Motorcycle Helmet Laws 

High season for motorcycle riders is nearly here. Again this year, lawmakers in the state are considering mandatory helmet laws for riders.They’ll be looking at two bills: a universal helmet law, and a law that would affect just riders under 18 – which has received strong support.”Oh my god, there’s nothing like it, you’re just free,” says Sheryl Rackliff, of Rockland, of riding the open road.But, whether motorcycle riders should be free to not wear a helmet is up for debate again in Augusta. “I think we have to look realistically and honestly at the medical impact and the financial impact that lack of helmets have in the state of Maine,” says Representative Emily Cain (D-Orono).She’s sponsoring a bill that would require helmets for riders under 18. Laws now target only those under 15 and those who’ve had their licenses less than a year. Her bill is strongly supported by the Transportation Committee.”I’m hoping they can see my bill as a middle ground,” she says. “As a place to start to increase motorcycle helmet wearing.”Another, less popular, bill would make helmets mandatory for all riders.John Hanson, past director of a Harley owners group, says that decision should be left to the operator, “before forcing them to wear a helmet that might restrict their vision, which might limit their hearing.””I mean, we’re old enough to make our own decisions,” Rackliff says.Groups representing riders say instead of regulating helmets, laws should focus on preventing accidents.”They’re taking up a bill, for example,” Hanson says, “that would require signage to alert motorcyclists that rumble strips are in the center lanes of some highways in the state of Maine. And we think that’s the proper course to follow.”The bills should come before lawmakers in the next couple of weeks.”My father was in a motorcycle accident when he was in his twenties, where he was thrown from his bike. He always said that he was only able to survive…because he wore a helmet,” Rep. Cain says.”I’m very appreciative of the fact that in our country,” Hanson says, “I have the right to choose and make that decision.”