Motorcycle helmet bill up for more discussion

CHARLESTON — After much discussion, the West Virginia House of Delegates’ Technology and Infrastructure Committee moved to lay over a decision on Bill 2070 until its next meeting.

The bill — introduced on Jan. 9 by Delegates John Kelly, R-Wood, and Scott Cadle, R-Mason — would allow people 21 years of age or older to operate or be a passenger on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet provided they have had a motorcycle license for at least two years.

Bruce Martin, a director with the West Virginia Board of Risk & Insurance Management, spoke at the meeting and gave data on motorcycle accidents and safety.

Martin said there is “a lot of recklessness” among younger motorcyclists and people have been statistically shown to be more cautious while operating motorcycles while not wearing helmets. He referred to a study in Florida showing injury and fatality rates were lower among those who did not wear a helmet.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, asked Martin if it was required for all motorcycle drivers in the state to complete a safety course. Martin said it is not required and operators must only pass a skills test, but he does feel someone who had completed a training course would “probably be less likely” to be involved in an accident.

Another point of conversation regarding HB 2070 focused on the question of whether or not insurance premiums would increase. The Committee also heard information on impact losing tourism dollars in West Virginia because of the helmet requirement.

Jill Rice, president of the West Virginia Insurance Federation, told the committee members insurance costs in the state are based on premiums, so if the number of claims increased due to motorcycle accidents, premium costs would go up.

Rice also offered to come back to speak to the committee again with data about how much money could be saved from this bill going into effect.

The committee will continue discuss the bill at its next meeting.

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