By Robert Sandler
Kansas City Star
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. Shortly after scores of motorcycle
riders rallied at the state capitol, the Missouri House gave
first-round approval this week to a bill repealing the states
mandatory motorcycle helmet law for riders 21 and older.
"I look at this as a matter of personal freedom,"
said sponsoring Rep. Larry Crawford, R-California. "This
is an issue that has well outlived its life."
The House tentatively approved the measure on a voice vote,
but another vote is needed to send it to the Senate. A similar
bill was vetoed in 1999 by then-Gov. Mel Carnahan, and other
helmet proposals failed both before and after that.
Crawford said the federal government originally required
states to pass motorcycle-helmet laws in 1967. But Congress
repealed that requirement in 1976, and most states no longer
require bikers to wear helmets, Crawford said.
Among neighboring states, Crawford said, only Nebraska still
has a helmet law.
Earlier Monday, motorcyclists parked their vehicles on the
Capitol sidewalks and congregated on the lawn for an annual
rally. Many of them support abolishing the helmet law.
But legislative opponents claim the result would be more
serious injuries, with the state often paying the medical
"I believe in personal choice," said Rep. Vicky
Riback Wilson, D-Columbia. "The question here is not
a matter of personal choice. It is a matter of using public
roadways and state resources in order to take care of the
problems that result."
But Crawford said there was little difference between mandating
helmets for people riding on motorcycles rather than in cars.
"Where do we stop on cars? We could save lives on (requiring)
helmets in cars," Crawford said.
Two House Republicans who are also physicians took to the
floor to plead for keeping the helmet law. They said personal
freedom is important but predicted that injuries would increase
and the state would pay more for accident victims' recovery.
"Every freedom has a responsibility side," said
Republican Rep. Rob Schaaf, a family physician in St. Joseph.
"You're increasing the risk that you're going to hurt
the rest of us by forcing us to pay dollars for your health
Republican Rep. Roy Holand, an orthopedic surgeon from Springfield,
also spoke against the bill.
"I think it's a public safety issue," Holand said.