Aug. 28 cannot get here fast enough for me.
Rare is it that I would wish a summer to evaporate in this fashion.
But on Aug. 28, Senate Bill 147, whereby Missouri joins the majority of states that permit adult, insured motorcyclists freedom of choice on whether to strap on a helmet, is set to become effective.
And on that day, I will for the very first time, ride from my driveway enjoying my newly conferred, statutory freedom to ride helmet free.
The bill has just been delivered to the governor’s desk for signature. It is widely believed that he will sign it, as he voted for a similar law granting freedom of choice (which was vetoed by then Governor Jay Nixon) when he was a legislator. Plus, as rare and hard as it may seem to believe, the senate vote on SB147 was unanimous, without a single state senator voting no, in favor of this legislation.
As a motorcycle enthusiast, who always stops at the state line when state laws change, either to remove my “hat” (as I call it) when I enter a freedom of choice state, or to put it on when I enter a mandatory helmet state (usually when I am returning to the state of Missouri), I am quite happy that I can leave my home without having to wait until I get to the border of Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois or Kentucky (five of the seven states that border Missouri, that also allow freedom of choice), to shed my hat.
Some people I know view it as unthinkable that our state would allow motorcyclists to ride helmet free, even though a majority of states grant that same freedom.
But almost without exception, those are people who do not ride, and who you’d never catch on a motorcycle, as a rider or a passenger, in this lifetime.
To them I would say:
• Tourism dollars from motorcyclists will increase. They have no idea how much a helmet mandate keeps riders from touring, staying in and enjoying the beauty of this wonderful state.
• The health and safety issue, I do understand, but then why don’t we require all people in boats and on docks at the Lake of the Ozarks to wear flotation devices, reduce the interstate speed limit back down to 55 mph, and outlaw cigarettes, alcohol and obesity? These too are health and safety issues of much greater consequence.
• For those who think it’s no big deal to strap on a helmet, then you do so for a week whenever you travel in a car. See how you feel about it then. You would be safer, and if everybody did so, motor vehicle injuries and severity may diminish. But I’m sure the experience would cause you to change your tune about a helmet mandate being no big deal.
Among riders I know who choose to always wear a helmet – even when not required by the state they are traveling in – every one of them believes it should be a matter of personal choice, even though their choice is to wear one.
I remember quite well an occasion a number of years ago when I was riding to South Dakota, to the Sturgis/Black Hills Rally. I stayed the first night at a hotel in Valentine, Nebraska, a mandatory helmet state, near the South Dakota border.
The next morning, I headed north on a rural Nebraska highway in a line with a large group of riders, perhaps 25 or 30 in the group, all going the same way. I didn’t know any of them, other than by the common motorcyclist bond.
As we crossed the state line at the “Welcome to South Dakota” sign, the guy in front pulled onto the shoulder of the highway, and the whole group followed suit behind him.
We all came to a stop, peeled off our helmets, and a spontaneous cheer erupted as we did so.
On Aug. 28, another spontaneous cheer is expected to be heard by Missouri riders. I will be one of them.
– Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.