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Our View: Motorcycle helmet law not necessary

Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 8:55 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:25 p.m. CDT

Illinois is one of a growing number of states that do not have helmet laws for motorcycle riders.

The state has seen motorcycle fatalities increase – up seven in 2013 compared with the previous year, when the total accounted for more than 15 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities despite motorcycles accounting for only about 4 percent of all vehicle registrations in Illinois.

DeKalb County had only one motorcycle fatality in 2013, and none were recorded in 2012 or 2011, according to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation. There have been none this year, either.

The question that is often posed when talking about motorcycle safety is whether there should be a helmet law in Illinois.

Riders long have held that the choice to wear a helmet is a part of the freedom and experience of the open road. That freedom is one of the reasons some people buy a motorcycle in the first place.

While we strongly encourage all motorcycle riders to use common sense and wear a helmet, we don’t see a need for the state Legislature to step in and force the issue.

This isn’t a mass public safety concern that requires government oversight. The onus should be on the riders to exercise personal responsibility, but it should be their choice. A state law isn’t necessary.

In the meantime, riders and drivers need to be on the lookout for each other. Drive and ride defensively, check your blind spots, don’t text while driving, signal when turning/changing lanes, etc. Riders should take safety and training classes and understand the power of what they ride.

And no matter what you drive, don’t do it impaired. Scott Haas, project coordinator with the Motorcycle Safety Project at Northern Illinois University, noted that the drug-and-alcohol culture in the motorcycle world causes the most safety problems.

That’s something we should focus on fixing, rather than taking away a personal choice.

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