Federal Motorcycle Helmet Law Amendment Defeated in U.S. Senate

Senate rejects amendment to transportation bill that would have withheld funds for states that did not enact all-rider motorcycle helmet laws.

An amendment would have put pressure on states to enact motorcycle helmet laws has been defeated by 69-28 vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg's (D-NJ), the amendment to the surface transportation bill would have restored a law that Congress repealed in 1995. That required States to have an all-rider motorcycle helmet law or have 1.5% to 3% of their highway construction money transferred into safety programs. After that requirement was removed in 1995, states began repealing their laws. However, motorcycle fatalities have also risen steadily since 1997. Currently 20 states have full (all riders) helmet laws. Lautenberg has previously (and unsuccessfully) introduced similar legislation.

Senator Lautenberg referenced U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) data showing the rise in motorcycle fatalities and injuries for most of the last decade in calling for passage of his amendment "to save lives and diminish the public burden placed on taxpayers by injured motorcyclists." (Motorcycle rights organizations deny the comment about public burden.)

Opposing the amendment, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) advocated motorcycle training and safety programs as having been proven to save more lives. (This assertion doesn't seen to stand up to the facts.) Senator Inhofe also did not offer any amendment or program that would support those programs.

Motorcycle Rights Organizations, who oppose helmet laws, were predictably pleased by the amendment's defeat.

Edward Moreland, the American Motorcyclist Association's vice president of government relations was quoted as saying, "I am pleased that AMA members and other groups and organizations worked closely together on this issue."

His counterpart at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), Jeff Hennie, sounded even more pleased: "Senator Lautenberg did us a favor. By offering this amendment, and bringing the vote, the United States Senate is now on record on both state's rights, and congressional involvement with motorcycle helmet issues."

President Bush has promised to veto the transportation bill , which offers benefits for all motorists, if it allocates more than $284 billion. The current tally currently stands at $10 billion above that, though the helmet issue has no bearing on the cost.

The MRF offered the following tally of Senator's votes on the helmet amendment:

YEAs 28
Akaka (D-HI)
Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Chafee (R-RI)
Corzine (D-NJ)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dole (R-NC)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Frist (R-TN)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Martinez (R-FL)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Warner (R-VA)
Wyden (D-OR)

**NAYs 69 **
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Obama (D-IL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Roberts (R-KS)
Salazar (D-CO)
Santorum (R-PA)
Schumer (D-NY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Talent (R-MO)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)

**Not Voting - 3 **
Coleman (R-MN)
Dayton (D-MN)
Domenici (R-NM)

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