Oklahoma's lack of helmet laws for adult motorcyclists still gets debate

The most recent statistics available from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office show there were 98 motorcycle fatalities in 2011. Of those killed, 81 percent were not wearing helmets. In 2010, the figures were 78 people killed and 85 percent not wearing helmets.
by Robert Medley Modified: December 16, 2012 at 9:23 pm •  Published: December 17, 2012

It's the freedom of choice they like.

They ride their motorcycles with the wind in their hair and say helmets shouldn't be required by law.

In Oklahoma, adults 18 and older don't have to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, only those younger than 18.

John Pierce, 69, of Collinsville, staunchly defends bikers' choice to wear a helmet. Pierce is the legislative chairman for the American Bikers Active Toward Education, a group of about 1,100 motorcycle enthusiasts in the state.

“Our position is very simple, that helmets are a very good device but it should be our choice whether to wear one,” Pierce said. “We believe we have the right to decide whether to wear a helmet.”

Others say it is a safety issue and helmets should be mandatory. No helmet law increases insurance rates, they say.

The most recent statistics available from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office show there were 98 motorcycle fatalities in 2011.

Of those killed, 81 percent were not wearing helmets. In 2010, the figures were 78 people killed and 85 percent not wearing helmets.

Oklahoma City police have reported 10 motorcycle fatalities this year. Seven of those people were not wearing helmets, police Capt. Dee Patty said. In 2011, Oklahoma City police worked eight fatal motorcycle crashes; six people who died did not wear helmets, Patty said.

AAA Oklahoma, a company that sells insurance, supports enacting an Oklahoma helmet law to save lives, spokesman Chuck Mai said.

“The proof is there. AAA Oklahoma strongly supports enactment of legislation requiring motorcycle riders and passengers to wear helmets and encourages all motorcycle riders to educate themselves of the lifesaving qualities of helmet use,” Mai said.

He said motorcycle insurance premiums can be affected by claims in a geographic area. Texas does not require a helmet for adult riders age 21 and older who have $10,000 medical insurance coverage. Kansas requires motorcycle riders younger than 18 to wear helmets.

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by Robert Medley
Breaking News Reporter
Robert Medley has been a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1989, covering various news beats in the Oklahoma City metro area and in the Norman news bureau. He has been part of the breaking news team since 2008. A 1987 University of Oklahoma...
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Our position is very simple, that helmets are a very good device but it should be our choice whether to wear one.”

John Pierce,
Legislative chairman for the American Bikers Active Toward Education

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