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Helmet repeal dies in Senate

February 27, 2001

Helmet repeal dies in Senate



By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Motorcyclists in Maryland must continue to wear helmets, the state Senate voted Tuesday.

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A proposal to allow adult riders to choose whether to wear helmets died on the Senate floor by a vote of 22 to 25.

A Washington County resident and one of the repeal's biggest supporters said he was disappointed but not defeated.

"We were hoping for better. We'll keep coming back," said Gary "Pappy" Boward of Cavetown, executive director of Maryland ABATE, an acronym for A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, voted for the repeal.

As floor leader for the bill, Mooney's role was to answer questions and defend his committee's decision to send the bill to the floor.

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"It's simply a matter of freedom for adults to choose for themselves," he argued.

Mooney questioned why Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's, was allowing the hot debate on a preliminary vote when most debates occur on a bill's final vote.

Miller reminded him that the Senate voted on the same issue two years ago. The bill was defeated then, too.

Mooney said accident statistics don't prove that the 1992 helmet law has prevented head injuries. He pointed out that Maryland State Police didn't oppose the repeal.

Other senators argued that helmets prevent accidents that take lives and cost taxpayers money in hospital bills.

"All of us would be expected to pay because there's no way we're going to leave them in a huddle on the road with their brains splattered," said Sen. Delores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore.

As an "old biker" who has ridden thousands of miles across the country, Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Eastern Shore, said a helmet limits a rider's ability to hear and see.

"There are no statistics about accidents avoided because a person was not wearing a helmet," he said.

Another former rider, Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery, said a helmet saved his life when he was 21.

"I went head-first into a tree. Some days I didn't wear a helmet. That day I was. I was lucky," he said.

Helmets are a matter of choice in 27 states. Most of the other 23 states are considering helmet law repeals, Boward said.

From 1979 to 1992, motorcycle riders in Maryland were allowed to choose whether or not to wear a helmet, Boward said.

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