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Ask the Mayor: Hawaiʻi Helmet Law Discussion

Motorcycle helmet, photo/graphic by Wendy Osher. [1]

Motorcycle helmet, photo/graphic by Wendy Osher.

The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Q: Is there anything you can do to help get a mandatory helmet law passed?

There have been a few fatal motorcycle accidents recently and it’s always reported that none of the motorcyclists who died were wearing helmets.

I feel like so many lives could have been saved if there had just been a law put in place requiring all motorcyclists to protect their heads. Thank you.

A: Thank you for your inquiry. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an unhelmeted motorcyclist is 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than a helmeted motorcyclist when involved in a crash. NHSTA also estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37%.

Currently there are only 19 states that have a mandatory helmet law, while 29 states have partial helmet laws. The latter includes Hawaiʻi—which requires riders under the age of 18 to wear helmets.

Our state had previously adopted a mandatory helmet law in 1968, which at the time specified that “No person shall: (1) Operate a motorcycle or motor scooter on any highway in the State unless he and any passenger he carries on the motorcycle or motor scooter wears (A) a safety helmet securely fastened with a chin strap” (HRS § 286-81).

This law was repealed in 1977 and has not made it through legislature ever since, though numerous legislators have tried to get a helmet law reinstated over the years.

Revisions to Hawaiʻi Statutes are made at the State level, which means I have no direct influence on the passage of a new helmet law. However, I will be forwarding your inquiry to the State legislature and encourage anyone who feels strongly about this issue to contact their district’s State legislators to make them aware of your concerns.

You can find a list of legislators and their contact information at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov; click on the “Legislators” icon.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: [email protected] [2], phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.