At the end of August, Ricky Reeves, died in a four-vehicle crash on Interstate 70. This marked one of many motorcycle-related deaths in Missouri. Fatal motorcycle crashes have been on the rise this year, but Reeve’s accident is different from the other crashes.
At the time of the accident Reeves was legally not wearing a helmet. Missouri recently passed a new law on August 28 which allows all motorcycle riders above the age of 26 the option to not wear a helmet. The new law also stipulates that riders also must have insurance that provides medical benefits for potential injuries that could be incurred as a result of a motorcycle accident.
Motorcyclists have had mixed reactions to this new law; Leslie Reeves, Reeves’ widow, believes that wearing a helmet is a choice riders should be able to make themselves. She went on to say that while her husband was killed, her husband died during something he loved, and it was his choice. Even if Reeves was wearing an accident at the time of the accident his chances of survival were very slim.
Whether or not you agree with the new law or oppose it, it’s important to understand the risk and the repercussions that ensue from any motorcycle related accidents. Even if the state law does not require helmet wearing, it can still affect a motorcycle accident case should one decide to take it to trial.
“Deciding to drive on the road, whether it’s in a car or on a motorcycle, there is some element of risk and a large amount of responsibility that each driver has,” says Attorney Kevin J. Roach of the Law Offices of Kevin J. Roach, LLC. “Should a motorcycle accident occur, failing to wear a helmet could affect any personal injury lawsuit you might want to pursue. By not wearing a helmet, the courts could determine that you are partially at fault for your own injuries.”
This new Missouri law also does not allow motorcycle riders to be pulled over for not wearing a helmet, and no political subdivision within Missouri can impose a helmet requirement for motorcycle requirements. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a national highway safety organization, argues that this new law will be difficult to enforce as police officers won’t have an easy way to tell if someone is over the age of 26 without pulling them over. They urged Missouri Governor Parson to veto the bill stating that helmets save laws and prevent brain/head trauma. Tara Gill, the Senior Director of Advocacy and State Legislation for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, announced that the data shows helmets are lifesavers and that when these laws are weakened fatalities and crash costs increase.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is also against the new law. MoDOT has estimated that the state will see a 38% increase in fatal accidents. MoDOT has also predicted that Missouri is going to see an economic loss of $9.1 million per fatality. Missouri is the 32nd state to five some or all riders the ability to ride without a helmet.
The passage of this bill has excited conservative lawmakers and riders’ rights advocates, and these advocates have said that helmet laws are an issue of freedom. People for the passage of this bill stated people should be allowed a choice. Tony Shepherd, the legislative director for A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education for Missouri, made the point that this law is now outlawing helmets, but instead giving people a choice. He went on to say that this law is giving each individual rider freedom. Shepherd encourages riders to wear a helmet, but does not want to take away their choice. He believes that ultimately the decision to wear a helmet should be left to the individual, not government entities.
The costs and repercussions this new law will have on the state are still unknown, but for now advocates are calling this law a win. Advocates are rejoicing that motorcyclists have the freedom to choose, while activists are worried about the amount of lives that could die.