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Helmet funds source of debate

Pro-helmet funding may hurt motorcycle training programs, group argues
By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Mar. 13, 2008
US transportation secretary Mary Peters wants federal funding earmarked for motorcycle safety training programs to be used to promote the use of helmets.

Peters stated her position before a senate committee on March 6. In February, she submitted legislation to congress to allow states to divert funding towards helmet awareness. A motorcyclist herself, Peters credits her helmet for saving her life during an accident in 2005.

My helmet prevented me from being a brain injury patient when I crashed my Harley, says Peters. We know helmets save lives and I want states to be able to join in urging riders to take personal responsibility for their safety by wearing a helmet every time they ride.

The American Motorcyclist Association, however, says this could harm training and awareness courses that are already underfunded.

Helmet use is certainly one part of a comprehensive approach to motorcycle safety, but the use of motorcycle helmets is already advocated in existing motorcycle safety training programs, says Ed Moreland, AMA vice-president for government relations. Congress decided to fund motorcycle safety training and awareness programs at the request of the motorcycling community. This effort by secretary Peters to divert money away from those programs is an attempt to circumvent the wishes of Congress and those motorcyclists nationwide who wanted to specifically augment rider training and awareness programs.

The AMA also accuses Peters of lobbying states for mandatory helmet laws. Under federal law, the Department of Transportation is barred from lobbying for or against state legislation. Moreland says Peters senate testimony violates that federal law.

Banning the federal government from lobbying for mandatory state helmet laws was the very reason congress passed this measure in the first place, says Moreland. What Peters is asking for is not an exception to the rule, its an example of an exception completely circumventing the rule.

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Motorcycle.com Staff
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