CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A rally at the West Virginia Capitol Saturday saw a lot of leather and motos as the American Bikers Aimed Toward Education of West Virginia gathered in support of Senate Bill 77.
SB 77 would allow those who have held a motorcycle license for at least two years and who are over the age of 21 to choose whether or not to wear a helmet.
The bikers are hoping the state of West Virginia gets rid of its helmet law.
“We’re grown men and women, let us decide what we want to do,” said Lanty Hammons, the state director of ABATE West Virginia.
Hammons says the Mountain State is missing out on money from neighboring motorcyclists in the tri-state area who don’t have helmet laws; he believes riders avoid coming through West Virginia for that reason.
Tom Gooch made the trip to the rally from Ohio.
“I remember when Ohio had a helmet law in the 70s, West Virginia did not, we used to take the helmet on and off going across the bridge now we do the opposite,” said Gooch.
According to the CDC, helmets reduce motorcycle rider fatalities by 22 to 42 % and brain injuries by 41 to 69%.
The most recent report by the West Virginia DMV shows unhelmeted motorcycle fatalities made up about a third of motorcycle deaths from 2015 to 2019.
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But Hammons says helmets don’t really have that much of an impact at higher speeds.
“I say if you’re riding a bicycle and you fall down and bump your head on the concrete, yeah, a helmet will save you, but helmets are not good over 45 miles per hour,” he said.
Furthermore, Hammons says helmet companies have no incentive to make lighter, breathable, helmets even though the technology is there since bikers in some states are already mandated to buy one.
“Make those helmet makers give us a helmet that we want to wear, and we’ll wear it, but give us a choice.”