To helmet, or not to helmet, that is the question

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Is it a matter of personal freedom versus personal safety? Should people who ride motorcycles in Connecticut be required to wear a helmet? It’s the law in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and fifteen other states and it was the law here until 1975.

There are 92,872 registered motorcycles in the State of Connecticut and business at places like Gengras Harley-Davidson in East Hartford will really get going sometime next month as snow disappears and the temperatures go up.

For the first time in many years, state lawmakers are talking about reviving a mandatory helmet law for drivers and passengers.

“I’m not being rude, but we should be able to decide for ourselves. I’m tired of getting told what to do, ya know?” said Norm Lajoie of Waterbury.

He’s one of the many longtime riders that turned out at a State Capitol hearing Wednesday with the mantra ‘let those who ride decide.’

They are joined by those in the Connecticut motorcycle industry.

“As far as motorcycles and people that have been riding for long periods of time, I think that it’s definitely their choice,” said Jeff Rushworth of Waterbury, the sales manager at the Harley dealership.

He was joined in expressing his opinion by Steve Bray of East Hartford.

“This legislation can only open a door for further restrictions like making us wear reflective vests or other ‘riding gear,'” said Bray.

There are about 1,600 motorcycle crashes a year in Connecticut. An average of fifty are fatal. Many of the others result in Traumatic Brain Injury, which the insurance companies and the medical profession say end up costing over $400 million a year.

“They’re not able to go back to school. They’re not able to go back to work. And the taxpayers of this state subsidize this preventable injury,” said Dr. Garry Lapidus of the UConn School of Medicine.

Riders at the hearing say those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“I’ve been riding since I was four years old. I have to say, maybe they need to look at me because I don’t understand where there’s a health or safety issue,” said Sandra Clark of Meriden.

Connecticut does have a partial helmet law requiring those 17 and under to wear helmets. Most adult riders told us they agree with that. Connecticut had a full helmet law, but it was repealed back in the 1970’s when motorcycles surrounded the state capitol in a high-volume protest.

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