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Sen. Curt Friesen

Sen. Curt Friesen

District 34

Weekly Column

March 18th, 2016

 

A subject that has been introduced three times, by Senator Bloomfield and by many Senators in prior legislative sessions, is the repeal of the mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

LB 900, introduced by Sen. Dave Bloomfield makes several changes to our current helmet law.  It does the following:

  • Creates a 9 member Health Advisory, Safety, and Brain Injury Trust Board;
  • Creates the Motorcycle Safety and Brain Injury Trust Fund;
  • Increases the motorcycle registration fee to fund the Motorcycle Safety and Brain Injury Trust Fund;
  • Increases the fine for those convicted of operating a motorcycle without a Class M license;
  • Allows motorcycle riders 21 and older the option of wearing eye protection instead of requiring them to wear a helmet; and
  • Prohibits an individual under the age of eight from being a passenger on a motorcycle on any highway in this state.

The Motorcycle Safety and Brain Injury Trust Fund, as proposed by the Transportation Committee amendment, is a nine member body – three members from the following areas of medicine: general practice; neurological medicine and surgery; orthopedic surgery, or psychiatry, plus the members listed in LB 900 as introduced.

It is estimated by the Legislative Fiscal Office that the increased $19 registration fee will generate $1,056,550, based on 55,608 motorcycles registered in 2014.

The Fund is to be used for expenses related to meeting the needs of individuals with a brain injury, who are not eligible for the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver program within the Department of Health and Human Services or do not meet the income guidelines for the program, motorcycle awareness and education programs and administrative expenses of the Motorcycle Safety and Brain Injury Trust Fund.

In order to apply for funds from the program, applicants must authorize Health and Human Service to provide Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver application materials to the brain injury services program.  If a functional assessment for the Traumatic Brain Injury program has not been completed, then the brain injury program may contract with Health and Human Services for the assessment.

The fines which can be imposed when a person is found guilty of a traffic infraction due to violating requirements for a motorcycle license are increased from a range of $10 to $100 to a range of $50 to $150.  Fines accrue to the county where the violation occurs.

 

The public hearing held by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee was on February 1, 2016.  There were many testifiers on both sides of the issue.  It was voted out of Committee on a vote of 6-1, and one not voting.

As I am writing this column the bill is being filibustered. A cloture vote was just taken and was three votes short of the thirty three required, so another bill dies by filibuster.

Riding a motorcycle is dangerous whether you wear a helmet or not. The number one reason for brain injuries is from falls. I didn’t like the creation of the brain injury trust fund and the creation of another board but these were the compromises that were made by Senator Bloomfield to try and get enough votes to invoke cloture.

Most supporters basically felt that wearing a helmet goes back to personal responsibility of individuals and freedom of choice. There are many dangerous recreational activities that people take part in.  Is it the state’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves? Should we require all bicycle riders to wear helmets?  Since all types of brain injuries will have access to the trust fund the amount of dollars collected in the trust fund will cover very little of the costs related to brain injuries. Arguments over the economic benefits of more riders coming through Nebraska on their way to Sturgis, better rider awareness of their surroundings and thus fewer accidents, versus the possible costs of higher medical care due to increased number of head injuries were debated for six hours.

I am sure in the future, another senator will try to repeal the motorcycle helmet law once more.

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Sen. Curt Friesen

District 34
Room #1110
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2630
Email: cfriesen@leg.ne.gov
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