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Focus: Connecticut motorcycle helmet law history, developments

Issues surrounding the use of a helmet for motorcyclists and their passengers never quite seem to go away in Connecticut or any other state, with pro-helmet advocates and ardent enthusiasts of individual freedom lined up on both sides of the helmet-use debate.

As has been noted in past posts on this blog, and routinely by safety commentators, states’ helmet laws across the country vary widely in their requirements and applications. A select few states flatly mandate universal helmet use for all riders, with no exceptions, noting their proven efficacy in reducing fatal motorcycle accident outcomes. Other states take a more modified stance pursuant to legislation that is often termed “partial” and that mandates use only for some riders.

Connecticut’s legislation is firmly in the latter camp. Until 1976, the state -- like a number of other states -- imposed a universal helmet requirement in order to obtain federal funding for highway development. A federal amendment that year eliminated the carrot-and-stick approach, and Connecticut promptly backed away from its universal law. Legislators took a number of years, though, before they finally enacted partial helmet legislation. That law came into effect in 1989.

Connecticut law currently requires only riders who are 17 and younger to wear a helmet at all times. It joins 30 other states in making helmet use volitional for adult riders.

The issue of whether the law is adequate or needs to be amended never seems to stray far from legislative focus. In fact, proposed bills and amendments to existing law have garnered the attention of the Connecticut Legislature 11 times since the present law was passed.

The issue seems front and center once again, given what one media report terms “a particularly deadly summer” for bike accidents in the state.

We will take a closer look at the law and the debate surrounding it in our next blog post.

Source: Greenwich Time, "Serious accidents turn attention to state helmet law," Justin Pottle, July 9, 2013

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