Tenn. lawmakers discuss motorcyclists going helmet-less

Courtesy of AP Graphics

JOHNSON CITY (WJHL) – Wear a helmet or not? Tennessee lawmakers soon discussing that option for motorcycle riders. It’s something that’s been brought up time and time again, but this go around lawmakers are changing the bill.

If passed it would allow drivers who are 21 years old and have health insurance to not wear a helmet while driving their motorcycle.

We spoke with Representative Timothy Hill who says this version on helmet legislation seems to be a compromise that may have a chance of passing.

Being on a bike means two things. “Open air and the freedom,” said motorcyclist Rusty Turner.

Tennessee lawmakers thinking of giving motorcycle riders even more freedom, in that if they’re 21 years old and have insurance, they and their passengers, don’t have to wear a helmet.

“I’d wear a helmet, always do and will. You can fall off a bike parking it, hit your head and die,” said Turner.

The proposed bill doesn’t have guidelines on which highways or areas motorcyclists would be allowed to ride helmetless.

“All it takes is one time, your head is like an egg. Crack it open and it’s no good anymore,” said Turner.

Though not every rider agrees. “I think they should pass it. I think we should have the option. I don’t think any of us like being told to do something. When we go to south Carolina, as soon as we hit the border we take our helmets off,” said Guy Wilhoit.

Lawmakers say it’ll come down to a fundamental question, is it the government’s role to make sure you wear a helmet? On the other hand though there are concerns about traffic deaths and head injuries.

“I think there will be times that you still wear your helmet, if you were in a hurry to go somewhere and going fast. But I still like to have the option,” added Wilhoit.

But no matter the outcome there’s simply one option that’s not up for discussion. “Arrive alive,” said Turner.

Representative Hill says the helmet legislation should be discussed in the full finance committee sometime next week.

We checked and according to the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office in 2014 there were 58 motorcycle crashes in Sullivan County, 20 crashes in Carter County, and over in Washington County a total of 68 crashes. Though statewide that same year, there were more than 2,700 motorcycle crashes which killed 121 people.

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