A bill requiring motorcycle riders in Delaware to wear helmets remains in legislative limbo after members of the House Public Safety Committee could not agree last week to send it to the House floor or to table it.
Current Delaware law requires riders over age 19 to have helmets with them on their bikes, but they are not required to wear them.
Bill sponsor Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, argued that the legislation is a commonsense measure that can save lives, help prevent traumatic brain injuries and reduce millions of dollars in long-term health care costs paid by taxpayers for riders injured while not while not wearing helmets.
Lynn cited statistics from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration suggesting that helmets could save hundreds of lives a year. He also noted that the death rate for motorcyclists in Delaware is triple that for all vehicles, and that more than half of all cyclists killed in Delaware in the past 10 years were not wearing helmets.
“Times have changed,” said Lynn, whose legislation is similar to a bill shot down by Delaware lawmakers several years ago amid pressure from motorcycle rights activists.
Bill Supported by Insurance Industry
The bill is supported by the Delaware State Police, safety advocates, AA Mid-Atlantic and the insurance industry.
But opponents continue to argue that the decision to wear a helmet should be a personal choice left to the individual.
“It’s my right to choose as an adult. … I don’t need anybody telling me what to do,” said Gary Hilderbrand, legislative coordinator with ABATE Delaware, a motorcyclist rights group.
Paul Kalp of Dover and Brian Schilling of Felton, were among those speaking in favor of the legislation. Both were left with debilitating brain injuries after accidents while riding without helmets.
“I didn’t wear my helmet every day. Now I’m nothing,” Kalp said.
Kalp’s wife, Tammy, and Schilling’s mother, Gigi Law, said motorcycle riders who choose not to wear helmets are making decisions not just for themselves, but for their families and loved ones who may have to care for them after they suffer life-altering injuries.
“I understand that you don’t want somebody telling you what to do … but think about your families,” Law told bill opponents.
Lynn, who noted that operating vehicles on public roads is a privilege granted by government, not a right, said after the hearing that he expects the legislation to die in committee.
“It’s unfortunate. The argument is on our side,” he said.
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