Motorcycle, motor scooter helmet laws not built the same state to state

During my recent Hawaii vacation, I noticed that few motorcyclists and zero scooter riders wore helmets while they zipped around Waikiki and Honolulu on the island of Oahu. How could this be? Each state is in charge of crafting their own helmet laws. In Hawaii, only riders under 18 must wear helmets. After that, it's up to each rider to decide how much they value their brain and life. Check out http://www.iihs.org/laws/helmetusecurrent.aspx to see where other states stand on helmet use. Another website, http://www.bikersrights.com/states/1national/states.html, lobbies for individual rider choice. Here in California, all motorcycle and scooter riders, including passengers, must wear helmets when they hit the road. That law, California Vehicle Code section 27802, has been in place since 1992, as lawmakers sought to save lives and save taxpayers money in Medi-Cal costs associated with brain injuries and deaths in riders who were not wearing helmets when they crashed. “The impact of a universal helmet law on cost was dramatically demonstrated in California, where there was a 53 percent drop in the number of motorcyclists hospitalized with brain injuries in the first year after the enactment,” said Chris Cochrane, spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety, while citing a 2005 report from Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for low income families, the elderly and disabled. “This accounted for a drop in hospital charges paid by Medi-Cal and other taxpayer sources of $11 million from 1991 to 1992. In the first two years after the enactment of a universal helmet law, California’s total cost of medical care for motorcyclists injured after accidents dropped by 35 percent. Of that decrease in cost, 73 percent was attributable to a reduction in costs for patients with brain injuries.” Cochrane said other states appear to have a love-hate relationship with helmet laws. “There are states that have either enacted or repealed – and in at least one case, reinstated -- helmet laws since, all of which show how deaths go up without helmets and decrease with helmets,” he said. While the motorcycle and scooter riders who were cruising around Oahu looked kind of cool with their hair blowing in the wind, I winced while I watched them careen around corners. However, none split lanes to get through traffic. I heard that practice is illegal there. What do you think about California's helmet law? Should it be rewritten so that riders have more personal freedom, as those in the Aloha State? Or should they stay the same? Share your thoughts and they may appear in an upcoming column or blog. Bike Traffic School this weekend Cyclists who would like to improve their knowledge of bicycle-related traffic laws and tips on how to become a safer, more confident and competent rider can attend this Saturday's offering of the county's Bike Traffic School. The two-hour course is open to curious members of the public, as well as cyclists who have received a traffic ticket for violating road rules. Bike Traffic School runs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 3. The cost is $35. Preregistration is required. For information call (831) 454-7551 or visit www.sctrafficsafety.org/BikeTrafficSchool.
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