BY: JUSTIN HUGHES
The proposed change would enable police to stop helmetless riders to ensure they comply with the legal conditions of helmetless riding.
Texas is one of many states that allow motorcyclists to ride without wearing a helmet. This freedom to ride with the wind in your hair comes with certain stipulations. Police currently do not have the authority to pull over riders based solely on not wearing a helmet, which means that many people ride bare-headed in violation of these stipulations without getting caught. A proposed bill in the Texas legislature would close this loophole and allow police to stop riders solely for not wearing a helmet.
Naturally, we encourage riders to wear helmets, and riding gear in general, at all times. But we also recognize the right of riders to forego protection in places that don’t require it by law. Texas is a bit wibbly-wobbly in that way. The Lone Star State will allow you to ride without a helmet, but only under certain conditions:
- The rider must be 21 or older.
- The rider must have completed a motorcycle safety course.
- The rider must carry adequate health insurance.
However, riding without a helmet without complying with these conditions is only a secondary offense, meaning that police may not stop a rider solely for not wearing a helmet. This means that as long as helmetless riders don’t grossly violate other traffic laws, they may ride helmetless with impunity, regardless of whether they meet these qualifications or not, and police can’t do anything about it.
Texas HB 748 barely changes the existing law, but the change it does make is significant. It empowers police to stop helmetless riders to ensure that they meet all of the qualifications necessary to legally leave the helmet at home.
While we should all agree that wearing a motorcycle helmet is a good idea, allowing police to any helmetless rider for nothing other than not wearing a helmet does seem to be a bit of government overreach. It adopts an attitude of guilty until proven innocent, since the rider who gets stopped must prove their age, their course completion, and their health insurance coverage. While these are all very reasonable stipulations, riders who comply with the law now stand to be stopped regularly, which is inconvenient if nothing else.
Some may argue that if riders don’t want to be inconvenienced by frequent traffic stops they don’t deserve, they should just put on a helmet. If Texas is going to make life so difficult for helmetless riders, why don’t they just mandate helmets for all riders like several other states already do? The law would be cut and dry, and police would have good reason to stop helmetless riders since there would be no question that they would be violating the law. The proposed solution seems to just make more work for everybody for no discernable advantage for anyone.
Source: The Superbike Blog