Senate rejects underage helmet law as lawmakers target Illinois motorcycle accidents

A proposal that would mandate helmet use by underage motorcycle riders failed to pass through the Illinois Senate last week, according to the Quad-City Times.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected the measure in a 19-32 vote. Supporters argued the measure would help reduce serious and fatal Illinois motorcycle accidents while opponents painted the proposal as government interference in what should be a decision made by young riders and their parents.

The measure had been sponsored by Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, who said the proposal would help save lives and reduce medical costs. He argued that the public spends millions of dollars in medical expenses to treat brain injuries caused by serious motorcycle accidents.

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, questioned those statistics, citing a study done by the Brain Injury Association.

“Six percent of brain injuries occur from motorcyclists, whereas 13 percent of brain injuries occur to pedestrians,” he said. “When will the pedestrian helmet bill be before the Illinois Senate?”

Illinois is one of only three states that has no motorcycle helmet laws. Trotter has also proposed separate legislation that would require all motorcyclists to wear helmets. That bill has not yet made it to the Senate floor.

In 2008, there were 4,901 motorcycle accidents in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. In all, 268 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured in Illinois motorcycle accidents.