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Lawmakers Likely to Void Helmet Law

April 28, 1999
By: David Grebe
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 294 and the House roll-call vote.

JEFFERSON CITY - A bill to let adults ride motorcycles without helmets is just a few routine votes away from making a comeback in Missouri.

A bill to legalize helmetless, prevously approved by the Senate, cleared the House Wednesday night, 108-32.

"The people that ride have the right to decide," said the bill's House handler -- Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville. Only people 21 years of age or older would be able to shed headgear on the road.

Rep. Emmy McClellan, R-St. Louis County, said the bill would bring heartache to many Missouri families. McClellan said the requirement was passed twenty years ago - and with good reason.

"When we required people to wear seatbelts we heard the same thing we've heard today," McClellan said. Reducing roadway carnage justifies the inconvenience and loss of personal freedom, she said.

McClellan cited a car wreck suffered by Rep. Pat Kelley, R-Lee's Summit, and said he wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for seatbelts and airbags.

"None of those things saved him, God saved him," Koller responded.

Rep. Kelley voted for the bill.

Columbia lawmakers Tim Harlan, Chuck Graham, and Vicky Riback-Wilson - all Democrats - voted against the bill.

Some lawmakers argued cyclists who rode without helmets shouldn't expect the state to pay their medical bills. An amendment sponsored by Rep. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis City, would've forced helmetless cyclists to reimburse the state for medical expenses - if they have an accident.

The amendment was defeated.