Proposed Bill Would Make Motorcycle Helmets Optional in California
Though nothing new, the battle over helmet laws continues in California. (Helmet laws vary from state to state, but they are currently mandatory in California.) In 1985, facing pressure from the federal government and several special interest groups, California passed a law requiring minors to wear helmets. In 1992, the law was amended to require all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear them.
Since that time, various lawmakers and motorcyclist rights groups have been pushing for California’s mandatory helmet law to be repealed. Bills have been introduced to repeal or scale back the law, but none has ever passed.
This year, the fight continues. In February 2011, Assemblyman Chris Norby introduced a bill — AB 695 — that would greatly scale back the scope of California’s mandatory helmet laws. Though it would not repeal the existing statute, it would amend California’s helmet law, Vehicle Code section 27803, to provide that riders over the age of 18, with at least two years’ riding experience, would be exempt from the law and not have to wear a helmet.
We applaud Assemblyman Norby’s bill. We believe that wearing a helmet should be at the discretion of the rider. But we also believe that it’s a good idea to maintain helmet requirements for minors and inexperienced riders.
Contact your local assembly representative to let them know you support (or don’t support) the Helmet Exception bill, AB 695. If you don’t know who your rep is, go to the California Assembly website, and on the left side you’ll see a button that says “Find My District.”
A very important side note, we want to stress that, although as motorcyclists and supporters of an individual’s right to chose for themselves whether or not to wear a helmet, most of us here at Riderz Law are in favor of AB 695. That said, we strongly urge every rider to wear proper safety equipment when riding a motorcycle. This includes, first and foremost, motorcycle helmets. As motorcycle accident lawyers, we see too many tragedies caused by reckless drivers, many of which are impossible to avoid — by even the most experienced of riders. Helmets save lives, and regardless of the law, we will always advocate wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle.
Here is an except from the legislative notes as of today:
BILL NUMBER: AB 695
INTRODUCED BY Assembly Member Norby
FEBRUARY 17, 2011
An act to amend Section 27803 of the Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles.
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
Existing law requires a driver and a passenger to wear a safety helmet meeting certain requirements when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle.
This bill would exempt from this requirement a driver who is 18 years of age or older who has either completed a motorcyclist safety training program, or has been authorized to operate a vehicle pursuant to a valid class M1 license or endorsement, or a comparable license from another jurisdiction, for 2 years or more.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.
(To read it all, go to the California Bill Information website, and search for AB 695.)