Motorcycle Helmet Use Up For Debate In Legislature

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Today in the Nebraska Legislature the subject of motorcycle helmets was back on the floor. The question- should it be optional for you to wear one?

Senators have worried throughout the session that the body has spent too much time on too few issues. The difference with motorcycle helmets is that senators agreed it this is an important debate to have.

They said the reason they support a bracket motion- to postpone discussion until April- is simply because they don't think any amount of debate will change how the vote will go.

"I'm not sure our continued debate will sway our votes. It may educate us a little better. But more than likely it's going to entrench us on how we feel about this," said Senator Mike Gloor of Grand Island.

"What are we going to learn in the next six hours on this?" asked Senator Jerry Johnson of Wahoo.

Those senators in support of this bill said wearing a helmet is a personal decision, and that it is not the governments place to legislate peoples free will. But those against it said head injuries are extremely costly to the state, from hospital trips to long term care.

This issue has been in and out of the legislature for years.

Bloomfield feels this bill is important now because the current law requires helmets but he said that people's ability to choose. And he said this debate is too important to bracket. Other senators backed him up.

"This is somebody else's right to liberty we're taking away. At some point we've got to leave adult decisions to adult decisions," said Senator Paul Schumaker of Columbus.

"The people in our state don't want to be told how to live. They can make decisions about what's right and what's wrong for themselves," said Senator Bill Kintner of Papillion.

Those who oppose this bill looked at the potential cost to the state. They argue that the cost of trips to the hospital and long term care for traumatic injuries are greater than most individuals can pay for, so the possible million dollars in cost will land on the state.

"Everybody's personal freedom ends where the public interest starts," said Senator Bill Avery of Lincoln. "The public interest in this case is that society should be protected from having to pick up the tab for these costly injuries that are associated with motorcycle accidents," he added.

Another concern with this bill is how law enforcement would be able to identify if a rider is 21 or younger without some type of profiling.