Helmut Hair No More

Katy Grimes: Five different attempts at repealing California’s motorcycle helmet law have been defeated by the Legislature, but that isn’t stopping Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby (Fullerton), who is making one more attempt to exempt motorcycle riders over the age of 21, from mandatory helmet laws in the state.

Written into the bill, and at the hearing Monday, Norby stated that in the 13 years since the helmet law was passed, fatality rates have actually been higher. “It’s been proven that people who wear helmets tend to take more risks,” said Norby. He also said that auto drivers take unnecessary risks around motorcyclists who wear helmets.

But AB 695 appeared stuck today in the Assembly Transportation committee which had trouble keeping members present — there were several committee hearings being held at the same time. The committee was unable to pass the bill leaving Norby asking for reconsideration at a future date.

Norby had the support of a large audience of motorcyclists, mostly members of motorcycle groups including “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments” ABATE,  and the Modified Motorcycle Association of California. Norby received 174 messages of support, in addition to the many bikers who showed up at the hearing to testify. “Let those who ride, decide,” said Norby, asking that adults be treated accordingly and allowed to make decisions for themselves.

Interestingly, the California Highway Patrol would not take an official position in support or against the bill, but at the hearing spoke definitively in opposition to repealing the helmet law, citing increased fatality statistics from other states which have overturned mandatory motorcycle helmet laws.

However, in his closing, Norby commented on the CHPs unwillingness to take a position, as well as the use of statistics cited from other states.

Also in opposition to the bill was the California Medical Association, the American Automobile Association (AAA),  and the Automobile Club of Southern California.

APRIL 25, 2011


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