Virginia to Consider Modifying Helmet Law

Virginia Republican Delegate Bill Janis of Henrico County has sponsored a bill to make wearing a helmet optional for adults. The bill is n...

Virginia Republican Delegate Bill Janis of Henrico County has sponsored a bill to make wearing a helmet optional for adults. The bill is now being considered by the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee. This Wednesday, motorcyclists are expected to testify before the committee in favor of the bill.

The committee has already heard from James E. Champagne, chairman of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.
"We had a helmet law from 1982 until 1999 when, through a lack of wisdom, we decided to believe in the tooth fairy instead of reality," Champagne said in an interview prior to his appearance before the committee last week.

Louisiana repealed its mandatory helmet law in 1999 but reinstated it last year after motorcycle fatalities increased dramatically. According to Champagne, who also is Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco's highway safety representative, 35 motorcyclists were killed in the state in 1998. Seventy-nine died in 2003, a 125 percent increase over 1998, he said.

However, Janis said the increased fatalities corresponded with an increase in motorcycles and crashes. The number of deaths per 100 crashes was already increasing before the law was repealed, and the rate actually declined in some of the subsequent years, he said.

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