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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

/articleid/3738195/1/pictures/1909534">Photo - This is a motocycle helmet worn by Jim Watson, of Edmond, during motorcycle safety training Saturday July 26, 2008 at Edmond Fire Station 5. THE OKLAHOMAN.ARCHIVES
This is a motocycle helmet worn by Jim Watson, of Edmond, during motorcycle safety training Saturday July 26, 2008 at Edmond Fire Station 5. THE OKLAHOMAN.ARCHIVES

Mai said many motorcycle enthusiasts support helmet use but are opposed to any law that requires them to wear one.

“You can certainly be killed on a motorcycle wearing a helmet, but your chances of surviving a crash are greater if you wear one,” Mai said.

Pierce, a retired airplane pilot who has been riding motorcycles for more than 50 years, said he will wear a helmet if it is cold or rainy or there are a lot of bugs in the air. He said he works year-round as an advocate for motorcycle safety issues.

“We are protective of our rights,” Pierce said.

Paul Brinker, 56, of Tulsa, a machinist and motorcycle rider who has been the ABATE group's safety officer, said in many impact accidents, the survival chances are not good whether the rider wears a helmet or not. He supports freedom of choice.

“We're not anti-helmet; we're anti-helmet law,” Brinker said.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol encourages all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, trooper Betsy Randolph said.

“We're an enforcement agency and if the Legislature passes a helmet law we will enforce it, but we respect the Legislatures' right not to pass one,” Randolph said.

She said troopers all too frequently respond to fatal motorcycle crashes. Troopers on motorcycles are required to wear helmets.

Randolph, who rides motorcycles as a hobby, says she always wears one.

“We do believe it's important to wear a helmet and we strongly encourage people to wear one,” she said.

State law requires all motorcycle riders to wear eye protection, whether it is sunglasses or goggles, Randolph said.

“A person can't ride if you can't see,” she said.

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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