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Our View: No need for motorcycle helmet law

Published: Friday, May 2, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Illinois is one of a growing number of states that do not have helmet laws for motorcycle riders.

The state has seen motorcycle fatalities increase – up seven in 2013 compared with the previous year, when the total accounted for more than 15 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities despite motorcycles accounting for only about 4 percent of all vehicle registrations in Illinois.

McHenry County ranked seventh in Illinois with five motorcycle fatalities in 2012. The county had four in 2013 and none early on in 2014.

The question that usually gets posed when talking about motorcycle safety is whether there should be a helmet law in Illinois.

Riders long have held that the choice to wear a helmet is a part of the freedom and experience of the open road. That freedom is one of the reasons to buy the motorcycle in the first place.

While we strongly encourage all motorcycle riders to use common sense and wear a helmet, we don’t see a need for the state Legislature to step in and force the issue.

This isn’t a mass public safety concern that requires government oversight. The onus should be on the riders to exercise personal responsibility, but it should be their choice. A state law isn’t necessary.

In the meantime, riders and drivers need to be on the lookout for each other. Drive and ride defensively, check your blind spots, don’t text, signal when turning/changing lanes, etc. Riders should take safety and training classes and understand the power of what they ride.

And no matter what you drive, don’t do it impaired. One motorcycle enthusiast that a Northwest Herald reporter talked to last week said the drug-and-alcohol culture in the motorcycle world causes the most safety problems.

That’s something we should focus on fixing, rather than taking away a personal choice.

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