Missouri Repealed Its Motorcycle Helmet Law, And The Most Obvious Thing Imaginable Happened

Photo: Michael Ciaglo / Stringer (Getty Images)
Photo: Michael Ciaglo / Stringer (Getty Images)

Riding a motorcycle is about as much fun as you can legally have as an adult, but there’s no getting around the fact that they’re incredibly dangerous. Even if you do everything correctly, you can still end up in the hospital courtesy of other drivers. Outcomes are much better if you’re wearing a helmet when you crash, which is why most states require them. Back in 2020, though, Missouri did the opposite and repealed its helmet law. And what do you know, motorcycle deaths skyrocketed.

KCUR reports that according to the Missouri Department of Transportation, since the law was repealed in 2020 motorcycle deaths shot up by 47 percent. Last year was also the deadliest year on record, with 174 deaths. Those statistics were shared as part of a report MoDOT presented to the House Transportation Accountability Committee outlining the continued increase in motorcycle deaths in the state since 2018. And while the committee did listen to the report, it reportedly did not discuss reinstating the old helmet law.

“We’ve seen that in other states,” Jon Nelson, MoDOT’s assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer told the committee. “Whenever they’ve repealed a helmet law, (there are) similar increases.”


Committee Chairman Don Mayhew agreed that the decision to allow riders who are older than 26 and can provide proof of health insurance to not wear a helmet is likely behind the increase in motorcycle deaths, saying, “I don’t disagree that the helmet laws made a difference in the number of fatalities. I think that’s pretty obvious.”

While it does seem pretty obvious, it’s also likely that other factors have contributed to the increase, as well. Traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and drivers are more distracted than ever. So while mandating that riders wear helmets would probably reduce the number of fatalities, it’s also every driver’s responsibility to drive safely.

“I don’t think any one area, including public policy, is the silver bullet to fix any of this. These are layers of protection to improve safety,” Nelson said, adding, “That begins with public awareness, education, certainly public policy has a role to play in that enforcement of that public policy.”

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