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AAA Urges Tennessee Legislature to Maintain Current Helmet Law

TN HB 42 would substantially weaken Tennessee's motorcycle helmet law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (February 28, 2023) — AAA – The Auto Club Group strongly opposes a legislative proposal that would substantially weaken Tennessee's motorcycle helmet law, and therefore increase the number of deaths and traumatic injuries on Tennessee's highways.

As introduced, Tennessee House Bill 42 would create a four-year pilot program, during which drivers and passengers 21 years of age or older, and not insured with TennCare, are exempt from the requirement to wear a crash helmet while operating or riding on motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, and motorized bicycles. Current law requires all riders to wear helmets. During the pilot program, a violation of the helmet law would be a secondary offense, rather than a primary offense, meaning a law enforcement officer will not be authorized to issue a citation to a person based solely upon evidence of a violation of the bill.

House Bill 42 has been placed on the House Transportation Subcommittee calendar for Wednesday, March 1. AAA urges its members and the public to contact legislators and request they vote against changing Tennessee's motorcycle helmet law.

Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent and lower the risk of death by 42 percent. In 2020, states without universal helmet laws saw a 57 percent death rate among motorcyclists who were not wearing helmets, compared to 11 percent in states with universal helmet laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. From the Government Accountability Office, "laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proven to be effective in reducing motorcyclist fatalities." After Michigan weakened its all-rider helmet law in 2012, the percentage of non-helmeted crash scene fatalities quadrupled, and the number of motorcyclist trauma patients hospitalized with a head injury rose 14 percent.

Multiple studies of states that have repealed their motorcycle helmet law show an increase in rider deaths, serious and disabling brain injuries, and medical costs, which are usually borne by taxpayers and the state. Annually, motorcycle crashes cost $13 billion in economic impact and $66 billion in societal harm, as measured by comprehensive costs based on 2010 data. When adjusted only for inflation, these amounts increase to $17 billion and $86 billion, respectively. Serious injuries and fatalities accounted for 87 percent of total comprehensive costs of motorcycle crashes, compared to 57 percent of the total comprehensive costs of all motor vehicle crashes. The repeal of all-rider motorcycle helmet laws has led to increased economic costs, including insurance premiums, in many states.

"According to a 2021 survey conducted by AAA, 92 percent of Tennesseans support maintaining an all-rider helmet law," said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. "The current law has worked well in keeping motorcyclists safe on our roadways and we cannot afford to weaken it."

About AAA - The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA's mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.