Nebraska passes bill to remove helmet requirement for motorcyclists

Some see this as an opportunity for some to “become better riders”
Nebraska lawmakers voted to pass a transportation bill that would repeal the state's helmet law for motorcyclists.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 3:49 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - A big move at the Nebraska Legislature Wednesday as lawmakers passed a bill that would remove the requirement for motorcyclists 21 years of age or older to wear helmets.

LB138 would allow licensed riders to forego a helmet once they have completed a safety course. The bill goes into effect once it is signed into law by Governor Jim Pillen.

For those who get out on the highway looking for adventure, the choice to wear a helmet - legally - will be yours soon in Nebraska, and the vote to repeal the state’s helmet law already has veteran riders revving up to enroll in a safety course.

“These are people who’ve been riding for years, unfortunately unlicensed, but they wanted to come in and get their safety course under their belt,” Steph Politt of the Dillon Brothers Harley-Davidson Riding Academy said. Once word got out that the bill was headed to the governor’s desk, she began getting calls.

AAA Nebraska is part of a coalition that opposed the repeal of the helmet requirement. That coalition includes safety organizations and medical professionals. Brian Ortner said they are disheartened by the vote because it impacts traffic safety and ultimately will cost lives.

“We don’t have numbers yet to show what the impact it’s gonna have, but if you look at states who have recently passed laws to repeal their helmet bill, the numbers have gone up,” the AAA Nebraska public affairs specialist said. “Most specifically Missouri, probably our closest neighbor, back in 2020 repealed their helmet law, when we look at the time frame before 2020 and after 2020, the unhelmeted motorcyclists’ deaths increased nearly 800 percent.”

He said AAA will continue to focus on safety education while riding mentors like Steph see an open door.

“You coulda gotten your license 20 years ago, and things have changed immensely in those 20 years.,” she said. “So it’s important to stay up on your education and up to date on training, and I hope this brings students in to learn more and become better riders.”

Steph has been riding for less than ten years and started with training classes at the location where she now works. She is teaching her 8-year-old daughter to ride safely, and that includes wearing a helmet. She completely respects the choice the law now allows in Nebraska to legally ride without a helmet, but in class tells it straight about safety.

“We want to give students the best chance, and stay protected and be prepared,” she said. “As a motorcyclist... you can’t necessarily plan for the unplanned, so we try to anticipate as much as possible, which a preventative measure would be to, yes, please wear a helmet.”

“Nobody who was opposed to this bill to repeal the helmet law is against riders,” Ortner said. “It’s about safety; that’s most important. You know, the public roadways, whether you’re on the interstate or the city streets, is the responsibility of every one of us, and when you’re in that situation, if you can protect the lives of those on the road, that seems to be the most important thing.”

Steph Politt said classes have mostly filled up for the next several months, but she encourages anyone interested to check with her or other training facilities. It’s not about taking a side when it comes to wearing a helmet; it’s the chance to help train better riders.

“If we can get one person to learn something new, just because they want to ride without their helmet, that’s a win with me.”