Lawmakers Considering Making Helmets Mandatory For All Motorcycle Riders
Here in Maine only motorcycle riders and passengers under the age of 18 are required by law to wear a helmet. But state lawmakers are considering expanding the helmet law to include everyone.Now the debate is once again raging, over whether to make wearing a helmet mandatory for all riders in Maine. The transportation committee is considering a proposal by Representative Paulette Beaudoin that would do just that. “It’s to save lives,” Beaudoin said Tuesday. “When a brain is splattered on the ground, it’s a little too late to think, ‘I should have put a helmet on.’”Maine passed a law requiring helmets in 1967, but it was repealed in 1977. Current law requires anyone under 18 to wear a helmet when driving a motorcycle or riding on one as a passenger. Anyone operating with a learner’s permit or within one year of completing a driving test, and any of their passengers, also must wear a helmet. A large contingent of riders from all over Maine showed up in full force hoping to keep the law as is. “It’s the freedom of the ride without the helmet,” said George Hrichak of Montville. “If somebody wants to wear a helmet I encourage them, by all means. But I’d like it to remain as it is. Your choice.”Opponents argue drivers of automobiles are susceptible to head injuries as well, but there’s no push to force them to wear helmets. “They don’t want drivers to wear helmets and they cite peripheral vision,” Hrichak said. “Well the same thing holds true for motorcycles.”Medical groups concerned with traumatic brain injuries, including a representative from Eastern Maine Medical Center, showed up to argue for the bill’s passage. They say when someone suffers a brain injury their insurance will only cover so much. Then it’s the taxpayers who foot the bill. “I heard it before, ‘I ride, I decide,’” said Beaudoin. “Well maybe I’ll decide I don’t want to pay. Because once their insurance gets through paying and they’re a vegetable, then we have to. We and everybody else will have to pay and maybe one day we’ll decide we don’t. And what will happen to that person?”Beaudoin, a Biddeford Democrat, introduced a similar bill in 2009, but it was rejected. She’s hoping for a different result this time around. After Tuesday’s public hearings the bill heads to a work session where the transportation committee will decide whether or not to send it to the house floor for a vote.