New year, new state legislation in play. While the state of Oregon is currently considering legalizing lane splitting in 2021, Nebraska state senator Ben Hansen introduced a bill in the state legislature that would repeal the state’s current motorcycle helmet requirement. Nebraska is currently one of 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that require all motorcyclists to wear helmets, as of January 2021.
LB581 was introduced on January 19, 2021, and would change the existing helmet provision to simply require eye protection for riders who meet two conditions. One, they must be at least 21 years of age, and two, they must have completed either an MSF rider safety course, or “other substantially similar motorcycle rider course.”
The bill goes on to stipulate eye protection as “glasses that cover the orbital region of a person's face, a protective face shield attached to a protective helmet, goggles, or a windshield on the motorcycle or moped that protects the operator's and passenger's horizontal line of vision in all operating positions.” It’s unclear how any windscreen could do all that for both riders and passengers, but that’s the current language in the bill, which is currently in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
According to a 2017 motorcycle safety report from Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services, fatalities were double among motorcyclists who did not wear helmets in 2016, as compared with those who wore helmets. The state reinstated its universal helmet law in 1989, and immediately saw a 38 percent decline in “acute medical charges for injured motorcyclists.”
The same report also notes that:
“Overall, those injured who were unhelmeted had higher estimated costs than those who were helmeted, including both economic costs and comprehensive. The economic costs represent medical care, lost productivity, legal and court costs, insurance administrative costs, workplace costs, travel delay and property damage. Comprehensive costs are made up of economic costs plus the estimated costs associated with lost quality of life. The differences are greater at higher injury levels. For fatalities, however, the economic and comprehensive costs are the same regardless of helmet use.”
“A study of Nebraska Trauma Data from 2008 to 2013 showed that unhelmeted motorcyclists were more likely to have a severe injury, to be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, and to die from their injury than those wearing a helmet. Unhelmeted riders were also more likely to be covered by a government insurance such as Medicaid or Medicare,” the report continues.
“According to Nebraska Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES), from 2009 to 2013, Nebraska had the lowest age-adjusted death rate among surrounding states that have partial or no helmet laws; these states include South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming.”