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A bill to newly require motorcyclists ages 18, 19 and 20 to wear helmets is on its way to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.
The Utah House voted 43-30 on Wednesday to approve SB159. The Senate previously approved it 17-12. Motorcycle riders younger than age 18 already are required by law to wear helmets.
The House only half-jokingly considered, then defeated, an amendment to allow young motorcyclists to be exempt from the new law if they agree to be organ donors.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who proposed that amendment, said it would send a serious message to all motorcyclists that if they won't wear helmets, they should be prepared to become organ donors.
Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, House sponsor of the bill, said it is simply "an opportunity to help young adults become older adults, and to do so safety" while studies say the portion of their brains affecting judgment is still developing.
He noted that some critics say 18 years olds should be able to choose whether to wear a helmet because they are old enough to join the military. "But in the military they have to wear helmets and body armor," Dunnigan said.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, an emergency room doctor who says he has seen far too many traumatic head injuries from motorcycle crashes among young adults. He said the government often pays for their expensive care.
"We know that 18- to 20-year-olds are, in fact, a little more impulsive," Shiozawa earlier told the Senate. "We also know that after using a helmet, most likely people will use it for a lifetime, or at least be able to make intelligent decisions."
Other lawmakers had questioned the value of restricting personal freedoms. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, earlier described the bill as "legislative creep," and Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, suggested the line between age 20 and age 21 is unenforceable without other traffic violations.
Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, told the House Wednesday that said he knows riding without a helmet is dangerous. But, "I also know we can't legislate away all the stupid in the state, nor should we legislate away our freedom."
Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, said he heard the same arguments when the state required seat belts, but that law saved many lives.