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Group takes on helmet laws

February 16, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - The largest motorcycle group in Maryland is again asking lawmakers to restore their right to ride without helmets.

"We're still here and we're not going away," said Gary "Pappy" Boward of Cavetown, executive director of ABATE Inc.

A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments wants the legislature to repeal a 1992 law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Boward and other ABATE members testified before the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee on Wednesday. About two dozen members came to show their support.

"We want our freedoms returned to us," Boward said.

Kathleen Loerich of Frederick, Md., said motorcyclists are confused about which helmets are covered by the law. A better approach to safety is training and education of riders.

"Motorcycle helmet laws do not prevent accidents. If you do not have an accident, you don't get hurt," Loerich said.

The state's motorcycle death rate has increased, not decreased, since the helmet law was passed in 1992, riders testified.

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A Maryland State Police crash investigation expert and an emergency medical director could not explain the increase.

But Cynthia Wright-Johnston of the state's emergency medical services board testified that helmets reduce head injuries by 68 percent.

"The brain is the one organ we cannot put back together," she said.

Insurance companies and law enforcement officials also oppose the repeal.

ABATE has several allies on the committee, including Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington.

As a motorcycle passenger, Snodgrass supports the right of riders to choose.

Last year, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved the repeal, but it was killed on the Senate floor by a vote of 20 to 27.

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