Missouri lawmakers push bill to repeal motorcycle helmet law

MoDOT official says it could lead to more fatalities

JOPLIN, Mo. — Hideout Harley-Davidson sales manager Dale Wano has traveled more miles on a motorcycle than he can count.

“I’ve ridden off-road bikes since I was a little kid. Been riding on-road bikes, of course, most of my life,” says Wano.

Like many, he rides because of the feeling of personal freedom and the experience of being on the open road.

“Riding a motorcycle’s all about personal freedom and being on that motorcycle.. for me, hair flowing. There’s nothing better than that,” says Wano.

That personal freedom is part of why he supports a bill to remove the motorcycle helmet law in Missouri.

“As long as they have proper insurance coverage and such, it should be the choice of the rider,” says Wano. “Another reason we’d want a choice on helmets is that there’s also an economic impact from us having the helmet law. As travelers make their routs across the United States, they will actually avoid Missouri cause they don’t want to take their helmets with them or they don’t want to put their helmet on.”

Lawmakers are once again pushing to repeal the law and make it so anyone over 18 that has insurance can ride without a helmet.

The law went through the legislator last year but was vetoed by the governor on July 12th.

“Unfortunately, each year we have been loosing 900 people every year on our roadways. Motorcyclists are a significant piece of that,” explains Jon Nelson with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety and Traffic Division. “I think we had 108 motorcyclist fatalities in Missouri in 2019 and we’re concerned that by removing a requirement to use a helmet, that those numbers are going to increase.”

Nelson says MoDOT expects the number of motorcycle fatalities to increase by 40-45 per year if the law is changed.

“When those types of laws are repealed, we see an average decrease in helmet use of 41 percent, but more importantly, we see on average, a 38 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities in those states, and that’s really where our concern is,” says Nelson.

And while Wano thinks riders should have the option to choose, he will be opting for a helmet any time he gets on the road.

“I have been in an accident. I had a lady run a red light and hit me on my motorcycle. And my helmet did help me in that instance because the outside of my helmet is damaged, and my head was not.” says Wano. “For me, my choice is to always ride with a DOT approved helmet because I have seen, personally have experienced, the advantage of having that helmet on if something does happen. But I do believe it should be up to the individual because it’s all about personal freedom.”

Senate bill 590 is currently in the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety committee.