North Carolina considers relaxing helmet law

For better or worse, North Carolina legislators are considering passing legislation that would repeal a law that makes wearing a helmet while operating a motorcycle mandatory. Under the new law, helmets would be optional for most adult motorcyclists.

Currently, North Carolina is one of 19 states that have mandatory helmet laws for all riders. The remainder of states either do not have helmet laws at all or have partial helmet laws similar to the proposed law in North Carolina.

If the bill in the legislature becomes law, virtually any adult riding a motorcycle would not have to wear a helmet if the following conditions are met:

  • The adult is over the age of 21.
  • The adult has a motorcycle license or endorsement over a year.
  • The adult has completed a motorcycle safety course.
  • The adult obtains insurance covering at least $10,000 in medical benefits.

Legislation is controversial

The proposed legislation has its share of proponents and opponents. Supporters of the relaxed helmet requirements say that adults who have reached 21 years of age should be able to choose whether they want to wear a helmet. In addition, supporters argue that fatality rates in other states that don't require helmets are not significantly different than those with mandatory helmet laws.

Opponents of the legislation say that such statistics are misleading. They use Florida, which had a mandatory helmet law similar to North Carolina's before making relaxing helmet requirements, as an example. Helmet proponents say that once the helmet requirement was relaxed in Florida, hospitalizations due to motorcycle accidents increased by more than 40 percent, with the rate of head injury treatments doubling.

Helmet supporters argue that government statistics show that helmets should be required, because they reduce the risk of a motorcycle fatality by 37 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Motorcycle deaths are up

The proposed legislation comes at a time when deaths related to motorcycle accidents have increased. According to a recent report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, motorcycle deaths increased nine percent across the nation during 2012. According to the association, such fatalities increased in 34 states and decreased in 16, but remained the same in the District of Columbia.

North Carolina was among the states showing increases. According to the report, motorcycle deaths in the state increased about 5 percent.

Consult an attorney

Whether the proposed legislation would increase the number of motorcycle-related injuries or deaths in North Carolina is a subject for debate. However, motorcycle accidents are often serious and can lead to serious head injuries such as traumatic brain injury, which can require expensive and life-long care.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can advise you of your right to compensation for medical expenses and other financial losses that were caused by the accident.