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Arizona Lawmakers Propose Legislation to Mandate Helmets while Providing an Exception to the Law

Man on a bike wearing a helmet

Helmet laws are always a hotly-debated topic among motorcyclists, with many experienced riders balking at mandatory helmet laws and restrictions on the form of helmet riders must wear. Many bikers simply want the option to decide for themselves whether they prefer the advantages of an increased visual field and the ability to feel more connected to the roadway, which can be limited by wearing a helmet. Riders wishing for greater autonomy in making decisions about helmet wear might be interested in a law that recently came before the Arizona State Legislature, which would have allowed motorcycle riders to avoid wearing helmets through the payment of a fee.

Currently, Arizona mandates helmet use only for riders under age 18. The new law, Arizona House Bill 2052, would have required all motorcycle users to wear helmets. However, riders would have had the option to pay a fee when registering their bikes to avoid being required to wear a helmet, with the exact amount of that fee left up to lawmakers. Law enforcement officers would not have been able to pull over riders who were not wearing a helmet, as the helmet law would be classified as a secondary offense. If the biker were pulled over for other reasons and was also not wearing a helmet (without being exempt), the rider could receive a fine of $500, with $300 being allocated to the Spinal and Head Injuries Trust Fund, and $200 going to the Highway User Revenue Fund. This allocation to the injuries fund would eliminate a common criticism that riders end up costing the public money when they are injured while riding without a helmet.

John Dreyfus, the lobbyist to the Arizona Legislature from the Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, stated that helmet use interferes with the ability to be alert, with blind spots that can threaten the lives of riders; hence his decision not to wear a helmet while he rides. “When I’m riding I feel like I’m part of the outside world. I can feel the air, I can hear the sounds around me.” Dreyfus argued that mandatory helmet laws were not the answer, but rather that prevention and education is more important: “What our position is, is that the best way to survive a motorcycle crash is not to get in it in the first place.”

For now, the law has stalled in the House, and without intervention it will be considered dead in the water, seemingly due to objections from motorcycle advocates who did not want to see helmet laws become more restrictive, even with the exemption. The law would have mandated more helmet use than Arizona currently requires, but relative to a state like California that mandates that all riders wear safety helmets that are marked as complying with federal standards, the proposed law would have offered riders the option to make their own decisions regarding their personal freedoms.

If you are a biker in need of seasoned legal assistance from a California lawyer who understands and believes in motorcyclist rights, contact the experienced and dedicated Bay Area biker law attorney William E. Weiss for a consultation on your claims, at 415-362-6765.

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