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Bill aims to repeal Nebraska's motorcycle helmet law

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 19:30:47-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — A bill in the legislature aims to repeal the state’s helmet requirement.

For state senator Ben Hansen, his bill to repeal the helmet requirement for motorcyclists is about personal choice.

“I’ve always been under the assumption that government should allow people to do what they want with their civil liberties as long as it doesn’t affect the civil liberties of somebody else,” said Hansen, who lives in Blair.

He said when he rides his motorcycle he wears a helmet, but he doesn’t want to make the decision for the rest of Nebraska.

“There’s all kinds of risks that we take in our life that are personal choice, right, and that’s kind of the liberty portion of it that I appreciate, the ability for somebody to make that decision on their own,” said Hansen.

LB 581 would remove the helmet requirement for riders 21 and over, and who have completed a rider safety course.

Among Nebraska and the states that border it, Nebraska is the only one requiring all riders to wear helmets. Iowa has no helmet law.

State senator Julie Slama wants Nebraska to join its neighboring states.

”Helmets will still be very encouraged, but in reality it is a matter of personal choice and personal freedom,” said Slama.

But Eric Koeppe, President and CEO of the Nebraska Safety Council pointed to a study after Michigan repealed its laws, which includes an uptick in skull fractures.

He said helmets for motorcyclists are comparable to seat belts for drivers.

“The severity of the injury goes up when a person is not wearing a helmet, and when you talk about seatbelts, the severity of the injury goes up, when they’re not wearing their seatbelt,” said Koeppe.

Koeppe also said the cost of a brain injury is significant and the taxpayer could be footing the bill down the road.

“That a lot of times what happens is when the person is injured, some of this cost goes back on society so we know that there is a cost to society for these brain injuries,” said Koeppe.

While he’s not pushing the bill for this reason, Hansen believes his bill would also help pull in some tourism dollars, making it more likely that riders heading to the Sturgis motorcycle rally will ride through the state.

“When were trying to show people what we’re about, the western part of the state, the Sandhills, you know, the prairies, the cities, this is going to be a good way for people that have not been to our state before, an opportunity to see what we’re all about,” said Hansen.

The bill already has over a dozen, bipartisan co-sponsors .