Helmet Law Hits A Road Bump

Sen. Ken Gordon and a host of other supporters want minors to wear helmets while on motorcycles and motorized bicycles – or risk paying fines up to $100.

But a Colorado law to require just that has stalled, at least temporarily, after the Senate voted on Wednesday to send House Bill 1117 to the Appropriations Committee for review. The maneuver occurred after a floor debate over the controversial bill; the fiscal note represents a cost of little more than $1,000. Opponents, including motorcycle rights groups, have argued that the issue over whether people under 18 should have to wear helmets while riding should be decided by parents, not the state.

“At some point we have to draw the line and let parents make decisions,” said Sen. Josh Penry, who noted the dangers of other activities that remain unregulated by the state.

“We’re never going to ban swimming pools – at least not this year,” he said.

But Gordon maintained that the “judgment call” to require helmets for underage riders – in contrast with other potential activities such as bicycle riding – is appropriate. Motorcycles, he pointed out, are heavier, go faster and are more likely to be used in general traffic.

Also speaking in support on Wednesday was Sen. Sue Windels.

“Senator Penry hasn’t had teenage kids, but I have,” she said.

Parents, she said, can demand their child put on a helmet – and sure enough they comply, at least until they are out of the driveway and out of sight. This law, Windels said, would allow cops to give a parental “assist,” particularly during the rebellious years of a teen’s life. Plus, she noted, parents wouldn’t have to deal with the claims of “John’s parents don’t make him wear a helmet…”

“When it’s the law,” Windels said, “it’s easy for parents to say, ‘it’s the law.’ “

Colorado is one of only three states with no helmet laws. The bill, sponsored by Gordon and Rep. Dianne Primavera, passed the House on a 39-26 vote.

Cara DeGette is a longtime Colorado journalist and a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com.

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