Legislature hears debate on helmet law

Photo: MGN
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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Every year, a helmet bill comes up in the Nebraska Legislature, and every year it gets rejected.

Currently, Nebraska is one of 19 states that requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, and many Nebraskans want that to change.

The 2019 version of the bill was before the Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

"This is the official 30th time. It was ripped away from us in 1989. We will keep fighting until we get it passed," Nebraska resident Gary Neeman said.

Those in favor of the bill want more freedom on the road.

"The states around Nebraska have pretty much repealed overly restrictive helmet laws, and still seem to be doing just fine. What is it about a little more freedom that scares Nebraska?" Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins asked at the hearing.

Some said even business is lost to Iowa, where a helmet is not legally required.

"If I'm not going to fight for my rights and liberties, I can't expect anyone else to do it," Nebraska resident Randy Geer said.

Opponents of the bill argued that requiring helmets is a safety issue and lowers medical bills for everyone else.

Safety experts argue there's a better chance at surviving a motorcycle crash if the driver is wearing a helmet.

"I understand the pro-repeal position of free choice to wear or not to wear a helmet, however, when that free choice to not wear a helmet leads to traumatic brain injury and long-term needs that I, as a taxpayer, will have to fund, then that free choice has now affected all of us," occupational therapist Dr. Brooke Murtaugh said.

Patrick Lange used to believe freedom to choose outweighed everything else in the helmet debate. That is until he blew a tire on his honeymoon and crashed in South Dakota while not wearing a helmet.

His wife died in the accident.

"I'm grateful I live in Nebraska. My sons ride motorcycles. I know when they get on their bike, they have no choice but to wear a helmet," Lange said.

Lange survived a traumatic brain injury from the accident.

If the helmet law is repealed the changes would affect those 21 and older. It would remain mandatory to wear a helmet for those under the age of 21.