The Future of Tennessee’s Motorcycle Helmet Law

Tennessee is one of a significant number of states that currently have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law.  This law requires that all drivers and passengers of motorcycles wear a helmet while the motorcycle is in operation, for their own safety and the safety of others. The law, Section 55-9-302 of the Tennessee Code, requires not only that passengers and drivers wear a helmet, but also that the helmet comply with the federal safety regulations and standards for helmets.  Certain individuals are exempted from Tennessee’s mandatory helmet requirements, including people riding on a motorcycle with an enclosed cab or one on which three wheels are touching the ground.  In all other instances, a failure to wear a motorcycle helmet can be charged as a class C misdemeanor, resulting in fines or up to 30 days in jail.

The reason for Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet law is fairly straightforward. Helmets help save lives during sudden and unexpected accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Tennessee’s helmet law helps to save an average of 46 lives each year, and over $94 million in health care and emergency-related expenses that would otherwise be incurred as a result of accidents.  However, despite such benefits, Tennessee’s helmet law is currently being questioned.  A recent bill, proposed by Republican Representative Jay Reedy, would relax Tennessee’s helmet law requirements and allow greater numbers of Tennessee motorcycle drivers and passengers to travel Tennessee’s roadways while not wearing a safety helmet.

The Bill, House Bill 700, would specifically allow drivers and passengers over the age of 21 to decide whether they want to wear a helmet or not. The only exception would be for those individuals currently under the coverage of TennCare, Tennessee’s version of Medicare. According to sponsors and supporters of the bill, Tennessee’s current motorcycle helmet laws interfere with the freedom of drivers and riders to choose to wear a helmet or not, and they are an intrusion of the government into personal affairs. Opponents of the bill note that helmets have clear safety benefits for people on motorcycles, and the relaxation of motorcycle helmet requirements has historically led to greater injuries and deaths in states that have relaxed such laws.  For instance, according to the American Journal of Public Health, Pennsylvania saw a 66 percent increase in deaths due to motorcycle accidents after it relaxed its helmet requirements. For this reasons, organizations like the American Automobile Association have testified in support of the current law and against the relaxation of the restrictions, arguing that helmet laws are an important element of public safety.

The House is set to vote on the bill on February 23rd, after postponing a vote scheduled for February 17th.  A relaxation of helmet requirements might lead to an increase in motorcycle accidents, resulting in serious injuries and fatalities and, correspondingly, an increase in personal injury lawsuits for people hurt while on motorcycles.

Auto accident attorney Eric Beasley is well aware of the grave injuries that can occur during a motorcycle accident, and he has helped many accident victims navigate the complexities of legal proceedings and medical care after a serious accident. Whether you were wearing a helmet or not while operating a motorcycle, if you have recently been injured and are concerned about your legal rights, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Accident Evidence in the Social Media Era, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, January 13, 2016.

Tennessee Auto Accident Guide – What to Do and When, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, October 2, 2015

What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, July 27, 2015