Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Easyriders Magazine Editor’

The history of mandatory Helmet Laws in Oregon is a convoluted yet interesting journey back in time.

The year was 1966 and the Interstate Highway System was under construction with massive amounts of federal funds from gasoline taxes.  Each state had to pony up only 10% in matching funds to participate in this huge construction project and all the jobs it created.

Then in 1967, to increase motorcycle helmet use, the federal government required the states to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and the above highway construction funds.  The federal incentives or rather the threat of a reduction in construction funds worked!  State after state fell to the federal “blackmail” threat.  In Oregon the legislature first instated helmet use laws on January 1, 1968 where they remained in place until 1977.

As an aside, in 1971 the Easyriders Magazine Editor, Lou Kimsey started A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments (ABATE).  The acronym fit at the time as unelected federal bureaucrats were in fact using coercion on state legislators to have specific laws enacted within the states.

In 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws and shortly thereafter began a pattern of repeal, reenactment, and amendment of motorcycle helmet laws.  Specifically in Oregon, on October 4, 1977 the helmet law was repealed for age 18 and over.

Then twelve years later on June 16, 1989 the mandatory helmet law in Oregon was reinstated for all motorcyclists by voter referendum.   By all accounts this was one of the lowest turnout elections in Oregon history and it had become a fairly common trend in the state,  where-in off-season election years — which typically had low voter turnout — legislators worked to jam through bond measures, tax increases and other unpopular measures on residents.

Then in 1997 the federal government (NHTSA) reported that although helmets were the principal countermeasure for reducing crash-related head injuries and the leading cause of death among unhelmeted riders, motorcyclist deaths were at a record all time low.  Along the way a funny thing happened — any federal funding tied to state motorcycle helmet laws seemed to evaporate.

In the same year along came Oregon House Bill 2454 and the first real opportunity to change helmet laws.  The intent of HB 2454 was to repeal mandatory motorcycle and moped helmet requirements for operators and passengers over 21 years of age.  The measure required the Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services to investigate whether the elimination of the helmet requirement for those 21 years and older increases the need for and feasibility of personal injury protection insurance for motorcyclists.  There was concern based on the cost of the Oregon Health Plan system that medical expenses would rise for un-helmeted motorcycle accidents and the state would foot the bill.  At the time failure to wear a motorcycle helmet was a Class D traffic infraction.  The violation was reduced from a Class C traffic infraction back in the 1995 legislature.

The House and Senate unanimously passed the HB 2454 bill, yet then Governor John Kitzhaber (D) on the last day (15 August 1997) before it would have automatically become law vetoed the adult pro-choice bill under the guise of it being a “threat to the health and safety of Oregonians.”  Below is the Governor’s Veto Message:

I am returning herewith HB 2454, unsigned and disapproved.

The bill would repeal the motorcycle helmet law for riders 21 years of age and older. While I respect motorcycle riders’ desire to choose whether to wear helmets, maintaining the current law is clearly in the best interests of the citizens of Oregon. This is consistent with the public position I have held on this issue for almost 20 years. I am vetoing this bill, based not only on my experience as an emergency room physician, but also because the research clearly demonstrates that motorcycle helmet laws save lives, prevent injuries, and save public dollars.

Helmeted riders have 28-73% lower death rates than un-helmeted riders and helmet usage reduces the incidence of severe head injury by 46-85%. States with helmet laws have death rates 20-40% lower than states without such laws. Helmet usage is 90-98% in states with mandatory laws, and only about 50% in those without. Un-helmeted riders have higher medical care costs

than helmeted riders in crashes, and the majority of the costs are paid by the public rather than by the injured motorcyclist. If our helmet law were to be repealed, Oregon Medical Assistance Program estimates an increased expenditure of over $6 million of public funds per biennium to pay for additional health care costs.

In addition, Oregonians showed strong support for mandatory motorcycle helmets when they overwhelmingly approved the 1988 referendum by a 2 – 1 margin. The measure passed in every county. A recent poll conducted by an independent research firm has shown that the people of this state continue to support the helmet law by a wide margin.

I will continue to oppose repealing the motorcycle helmet law based on my concern for the health of Oregon motorcyclists and my commitment to the judicious use of public funds. As I have stated in the past, the only way I would consider signing such a measure into law would be if those who are advocating freedom of choice for adult riders would also ensure that those exercising such a freedom also accept the full economic responsibility for their actions.

Now after seven years of being out of politics John Kitzhaber (62) wants a do-over and says he’ll be a better governor…this time.  I’m betting not for motorcyclists.  Disregard that as an emergency room physician he just knows what’s best for the people of the state.  Never mind that he voted so many times for higher taxes that it earned him the nickname “Taxhaber” or that he vetoed so many Republican bills that they called him “Dr. No” or that in his last term he publically announced in frustration that the state was “ungovernable.”  He was right.  He couldn’t.

In fairness, the ex-Gov. Kitzhaber did sign on June 11, 2001, the HB 3885 bill where motorcyclists won the right to pump their own gasoline.  Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states that prohibit self-serve gas pumps and after going into law motorcycles were the only class of vehicle allowed to dispense fuel into their tanks.  Prior to this law going into effect on January 1, 2002 it was an arm wrestling match with the local high-school pump jockey about who was the fuel expert for your specific brand of motorcycle.

There you have it.  The helmet law history in Oregon.

Full Disclosure:  I support the choice to wear a motorcycle helmet and do. However, I also have opinions on government intrusion in my personal freedom and my right as an adult to choose and make bad choices.

Sources: The Motorcycle Riders Foundation; Insurance Institute For Highway Safety; Oregon State Legislature; Oregon Catalyst; NHTSA; Oregon Watchdog

Photo’s courtesy of Internet.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: