There is new legislation to restore Pennsylvania's motorcycle helmet law, as well as two new proposed bills that would address motorcycle safety issues if the mandatory helmet law is not approved.
The state's mandatory helmet law was repealed in 2003. Since then, motorcycle riders ages 21 and up have been able to choose if they want to wear a helmet, provided that they have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years or have taken a motorcycle safety course approved by either the Department of Transportation or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. All riders with a learner's permit must wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle regardless of age. If the mandatory helmet law takes effect, all motorcycle operators and passengers will be required to wear helmets.
Rep. Dan Rankel introduced the two new bills as 'backups' in case the mandatory helmet law is not approved. The bills require riders to purchase additional insurance if they do not wear a helmet and provide special motorcycle license plates for riders under the age of 21. Other states have similar laws in place, such as Florida and Kentucky, to protect taxpayers and keep insurance rates from going up for all motorists.
According to PennDOT, there were nearly 838,000 licensed motorcyclists in Pennsylvania in 2010. More than 200 motorcyclists died in 2009 – nearly half were caused when riders (either the operator or passenger) didn't wear helmets. The number of motorcycle accident fatalities increased in 2010 to 223 deaths as well.