Efforts to ease West Virginia’s motorcycle helmet law have been stopped short by the bill’s advocate, who pledged to fight for legislation making helmets optional next year.
The Senate Transportation committee this week pulled language from a motorcycle lighting bill that would have deleted one of three helmet performance standards in current law.
Delegate Greg Butcher, D-Logan, sought the helmet change in the House to give riders more flexibility. He said the provision is unenforceable because he believes police are not trained to detect differences in helmets, nor which helmets meet the standards.
Butcher told the committee that the change would force riders with a U.S. Department of Transportation-standard helmet to buy a more expensive helmet to comply with the other two standards: Snell Memorial Foundation and the American National Standards Institute.
Instead, Butcher said he will push to make helmets optional for experienced riders next session. Butcher, who is not running for re-election, said West Virginia loses millions in tourism dollars when motorcycle enthusiasts avoid the state because of its helmet laws.
The National Transportation Safety Board reports that only 13 states specify that the helmets must meet federal performance standards. The use of helmets that don’t meet those federal standards and the use of counterfeit Department of Transportation certification stickers are on the rise.
A new certification label that will be more difficult to counterfeit will be available beginning next year and should make enforcement easier, according to the safety board.
Neighboring Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania do not require adult riders to wear helmets. Twenty states, including Virginia and Maryland, require all riders to wear helmets, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Lawmakers could still consider additional changes to the lighting portion of the bill as it advance to the Senate Judiciary committee. Lawmakers want to allow the use of flashing motorcycle lights during parades and funeral processions.
The current bill would allow bikers to place yellow or white lights on their motorcycles to illuminate the frame of the bike. The additional lighting is a safety measure that increases the bike’s visibility for other motorists, said bill sponsor Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley.