Motorcycle Helmets Could Soon Be Optional in Missouri

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO (KAIT) - The Missouri Senate approved legislation that, if signed into law, would allow people 21 and over to ride motorcycles without helmets. Current state law requires people who ride motorcycles to wear helmets. The change would be the first to the state's helmet law in decades.

"The current law in Missouri is it's mandatory you wear a helmet if you ride a motorcycle," said Jess Cagle.

Cagle said he's been on a motorcycle since he was a child. He said he always wears his helmet, but said others should have the option to wear a helmet if they choose.

"It's kind of like the seatbelt law, there is changes to it now that sometimes you don't have to wear seatbelts in different vehicles and such, but I think you should wear a seatbelt in a vehicle, and with a motorcycle I think you should wear a helmet, but If you want it to be your choice, so be it," said Cagle.

"I've personally had an accident before and it has saved my life so I continue to want to wear a helmet," said B.J. Gatewood.

Gatewood, owner of Gatewood Custom Cycles in Caruthersville, said if the legislature passes the proposed law, his disappointing sales would suffer even further. He said if people aren't required to wear helmets, then they won't buy them.

"I wear a helmet, I recommend wearing a helmet because I want to be here tomorrow for my kids, my wife, my family," said Gatewood. "I don't agree but a lot of people like riding without helmets, but to me it's not safe."

The bill, sponsored by State Senator Luann Ridgeway of District 17, was attached to another piece of legislation on motorcycle insurance. The bill faced little debate in the Senate and is expected to pass easily in the House.

Gatewood said if the bill passes, then people could make a life or death decision.

"The numerous occasions I've had accidents it has saved me so I may not be walking here today it I wasn't wearing my helmet," said Gatewood.

According to the Freedom of Road Riders, a Missouri non-profit organization, the change in legislation would be a welcome one. Click here to read the FORR's web-site.

"People like to feel that they're free, with the wind blowing through their hair," said Gatewood. "It's all a personal preference whether you want to be walking here tomorrow or if you don't want to be walking here tomorrow."

"I have friends that ride and they just don't want to wear it, don't want to fool with it but they all do, but we abide by the law, you have to wear a helmet," said Cagle. "As you get older you look back and say, maybe I shouldn't have done that, and when your 18, you're not thinking about that because nothing is going to happen to me."

In Arkansas, the House Public Transportation Committee voted 'no' on legislation that would have required those younger than 24 to wear helmets.

Current Arkansas law states motorcyclists under 21 wear helmets, but the bill, proposed by Rep. Gene Shelby, would have extended the age requirement.