Missouri lawmakers act to loosen helmets, safety inspections
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers voted Friday to relax a pair of roadway safety protections — repealing a helmet requirement for adult motorcyclists and abolishing inspections for about a million middle-aged vehicles.
Critics warned that the legislation could lead to more deaths and serious injuries in vehicle crashes that could devastate families and rack up huge medical expenses for both private insurers and the state.
Supporters appealed to personal liberty while denouncing government regulations.
"Freedom!" declared Republican Rep. Jered Taylor, of Republican, as he urged colleagues to give final approval to the bill.
The legislation, which also would raise fees for vehicle and driver's licenses, now goes to Republican Gov. Mike Parson.
Some Missouri lawmakers have tried for years to do away with helmet mandate for motorcycle riders. They came close in 2009, passing a bill to exempt riders age 21 and older from the helmet requirement when not traveling on interstate highways.
But then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the legislation while citing concerns about highway safety and health care costs. Parson had voted for that bill as a member of the state House.
Missouri currently is one of 19 states and the District of Columbia that require helmets for all motorcycle riders, according to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Twenty-eight states have motorcycle helmet laws covering only some riders, usually for people younger than 18. Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire don't require helmets for anyone riding motorcycles.
Opponents of the Missouri legislation said it's foolish to loosen the helmet law.
"What we're saying is, 'Hey folks, we're going to make it legal to do something that frankly is very, very dangerous,'" said Democratic Rep. Gina Mitten, of St. Louis.
The legislation also would do away with vehicle safety inspections for many vehicles.
Safety inspections currently are required every other year for all vehicles more than five years old. The legislation would require inspections only for vehicles more than 10 years old or with more than 150,000 miles. Legislative staff estimate almost 1.2 million vehicles could become exempt from inspections as a result of the bill.
Missouri's safety inspections typically cost $12 and are required to renew a vehicle registration. They check a vehicle's steering, braking and exhaust systems. Other things checked include the lights, turn signals, wipers, seat belts, tires and horn.
"Our cars have improved tremendously with safety measures in the past 20 years, so really it doesn't make much sense" to require the inspections, said Republican Sen. David Sater, of Cassville.
Republican Sen. Doug Libla, of Poplar Bluff, expressed concern that, without mandatory inspections, some people might not repair their vehicles, which could result in more crashes.
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