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Will fewer Tennessee riders have to wear motorcycle helmets?

Thousands of people enjoy riding motorcycles across the state of Tennessee. However, riders are at risk of greater personal injury than motorists in vehicles are. A motorcycle accident can result in serious injuries and broken bones that may be life- threatening. Head and neck injuries are common for riders involved in a collision, even among those wearing a helmet.

A proposed bill in Tennessee would give some riders more freedom but potentially increase the risk of injury in motorcycle accidents. The proposal seeks changes to the existing state law in order to make it optional for riders to wear a helmet.

The law change would be for riders 25 and older, and riders would have to meet several other requirements before they could legally ride without a helmet. Basically, more experienced and educated riders would be awarded the choice to wear or not to wear a helmet.

Personal choice may be an incentive for the bill, which received a 6-3 vote from the Senate Transportation Committee. Supporters of the bill note that allowing riders to go without a helmet would boost tourism to the state, and some have also questioned the true safety of the helmets. Opponents against the bill cite increased costs to trauma centers and greater risk to riders as reasons to keep the helmet requirement.

This is not the first time legislators have sought to amend Tennessee's helmet law. Also, if the bill were passed, this wouldn’t be the only state without a strict helmet requirement. The issue of helmet and motorcycle safety is an ongoing one, and many riders will always seek the freedom to decide for themselves whether to wear a helmet or not.

Ultimately, it is important for riders to understand the risks involved with riding a motorcycle and for other motorists to share the road to provide a safe environment for riders. A motorcyclist who is injured because of someone’s negligent driving shouldn’t be treated like a criminal because he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Some drivers simply need to drive better and look out for motorcycles.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, "Proposal to drop motorcycle helmet law passes Tennessee Senate panel," March 13, 2014

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