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Senate approves helmet option

April 09, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Ever since Maryland passed a motorcycle helmet law in 1992, Gary "Pappy" Boward of Cavetown has been fighting to have it repealed.

On Thursday, he saw the Maryland Senate vote 26-21 to give adult riders a choice about whether to wear a helmet.

The measure now goes to the House of Delegates, where State House observers said it has a slim chance of passing before the session ends Monday.

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"I think maybe the legislature is starting to listen a little bit," said Boward after he emerged from the Senate gallery where he watched the vote.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John J. Hafer, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, would allow riders age 21 and older to go without helmets, provided they have two years of experience or have completed a safety course.

Opponents argued that helmets save lives.

If the law is repealed, legislative analysts said it could cost the state $750,000 a year to cover the costs of treating uninsured motorcyclists who are involved in accidents.

"This would be terrible public policy for us to pass right now," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore.

Boward, executive director of ABATE of Maryland Inc., argues that motorcyclists are not any less likely to have health insurance than other motorists.

Helmets give riders a false sense of security, and riders who have accidents are likely to get hurt whether they are wearing a helmet or not, he said.

"They're promoting safe crashing. We're promoting safe riding, not safe crashing," he said.

During the debate in the Senate, Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, read a postcard from a New Jersey motorcyclist who said riders will spend their tourist dollars in Maryland if the helmet law is repealed.

Mooney, Hafer and Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, all supported the bill.

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