By Ralph Schwartz
Largely Republican groups of sponsors in the state House and Senate recently introduced bills that would eliminate the helmet requirement for motorcyclists, either altogether (House Bill 1246) or for those 18 and older (Senate Bill 5143).
There’s one local sponsor, Doug Ericksen, the Republican senator from Ferndale. Upon a second look, Ericksen’s name is not among the sponsors.
You can find comments under the bill descriptions on the Washington Votes website. The arguments range from “I’m not picking up your medical tab if you’re foolish enough to not protect yourself” to “if we have to explain the virtues of helmet-free riding to you, you’ll never understand. Besides, you can take the helmet off as soon as you cross the Idaho line anyway.”
It’s hard to imagine that in a society where parents make their kids put on a helmet before getting in a wagon, all of a sudden we’re going to countenance motorcyclists throwing caution — and their skulls — to the wind. Besides, the Washington State Patrol is pushing its Target Zero campaign, aiming for zero highway deaths by 2030. This bill, if it passes, won’t help that cause.
We’ll see how these bills proceed in the Legislature. The Senate bill, which still requires helmets for those under 18, has 11 sponsors out of 49 senators. The House bill, which eliminates the helmet requirement altogether, has 23 sponsors out of 98 members. Both houses are almost halfway to approval already.