On March 11, Nevada Legislators introduced Bill A.B. 300, amending existing helmet requirements for motorcyclists. Under the new bill, motorcyclists over the age of 21, who have had their motorcycle license for at least a year, and who have completed a safety course, are no longer required to wear protective headgear while riding on highways. All motorcyclists that do not meet these criteria are still required, by law, to be protected. Passengers over the age of 21 are also no longer required to wear protective headgear.
In 2000, Florida amended a similar law enacted in 1967, removing the requirement that motorcycle riders over the age of 21 wear a helmet. Those riders over 21, however, who did not wear helmets, were required to have an additional $10,000 in medical insurance. The U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration filed a report in 2005, evaluating motorcycle crashes the two years before, and the two years after the repeal of Florida’s helmet requirement. Importantly, between 1997 and 1999, of the 515 motorcyclists killed in the state, 9.4% were not helmeted. Between 2001 and 2003, however, 60.8% of the 933 motorcyclists killed were not wearing a helmet. The incidence of incapacitating injury suffered while not helmeted increased from 20.8% in 1999 to 50.3% in 2001. The study also revealed that while riders under 21 were required to continue wearing helmets, actual compliance decreased after the law was changed. Similar to a trend seen in Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana, Florida saw an increase in motorcycle registrations coincidental with the repeal of its helmet requirement.
The majority of states have partial laws similar to Florida’s law and the law proposed in Nevada but it is likely that Nevada will experience trends similar to those seen in other states after the repeal of a helmet requirement. The American Motorcyclist Association is urging its members to contact their legislators to tell them to say "YES!" to A.B.300, but time will tell if the "right to ride with freedom of choice" is worth the added risk.
Steve is the Managing Shareholder of Steven J. Klearman & Associates, a civil litigation law firm located in Reno, Nevada. He practices primarily in the areas of civil litigation and injury law, and has authored one of the definitive guides to Nevada civil law that is widely used by Nevada judges and attorneys, his book entitled Elements of Nevada Legal Theories.