The American Motorcyclist Association praised U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for standing up against a proposal that would have indirectly forced states to pass mandatory helmet laws.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was poised to introduce the proposal on Dec. 14 during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on S. 1449 -- the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011. His proposal was an amendment to S. 1449, but he decided against offering it in the committee.
In a statement for the record, Ayotte noted that the amendment would take away the right of the people in a state to decide whether to have a mandatory helmet law "by indirectly forcing all states to pass mandatory universal helmet laws in order to receive funding for motorcycle safety.
"States without mandatory universal helmet laws -- such as New Hampshire -- would be subject to stricter eligibility criteria, and would be forced to use 50 percent of their grant funds to promote helmet use," she said.
"This amendment violates the original intent of the motorcyclist safety grant program, which has traditionally focused on encouraging states to fund motorcycle safety awareness, education and training," she said. "This amendment would divert funds away from awareness and education and, instead, use them to place federal pressure on states to enact mandatory universal helmet laws."
Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, thanked Ayotte for her statement, noting the AMA also opposed the Lautenberg amendment.
"Federal efforts should focus on preventing crashes rather than mandating what gear riders should wear," Allard said.
Besides opposing the Lautenberg amendment, the AMA has been working on Capitol Hill to try to ensure that motorcycle-only checkpoints don't proliferate around the nation, and working to ensure that motorcyclists' concerns about possible engine damage are considered before federal officials approve the use of higher ethanol-gasoline blends for motorcycles.
"We need the help of all riders," Allard said. "More AMA members means more political clout, from the statehouse to the White House. We urge motorcyclists to join the AMA to help protect motorcycling now and in the future."