Report Title:

Safety Helmets


Mandates safety helmet use for motorcycle, motor scooter, and moped operators and bicycle riders under the age of 18 years.


H.B. NO.









RELATING TO the use of SAFETY helmets BY MINORS.



SECTION 1. The purpose of this Act is to mandate the use of safety helmets for motorcycle, moped, and motor scooter operators and bicyclists in the State that are under the age of eighteen. The legislature finds that:

(1) A department of transportation study performed at one hundred twenty different sites throughout the State found that moped helmet use statewide is only 15.6 per cent and that motorcycle helmet use is 26.4 per cent;

(2) Even though a motorcycle and a moped are different in scale and power, nationwide statistics showing that a motorcyclist is sixteen times more likely to perish in an accident than an automobile driver and that head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents with unhelmeted riders forty per cent more likely to sustain a fatal head injury may be indicative of the type of statistics one would find if a similar study were conducted with regard to mopeds;

(3) Unhelmeted motorcycle accident victims have higher health care costs compared to helmeted riders, and that if such statistics were kept, an analogous showing of higher health care costs for unhelmeted moped accident victims would likely be evident;

(4) Nearly half of the severe injuries resulting from bicycle crashes nationwide are diagnosed as traumatic brain injury. For the year 2000, that means more than four thousand two hundred fifty of the estimated nine thousand children ages fourteen and under that were hospitalized for bike-related injuries suffered a traumatic brain injury, possibly causing serious long term degradation in quality of life. Sadly, those statistics also show that older children are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury, likely from decreased helmet usage; and

(5) Bicycle safety helmets reduce the risk of head injury by as much as eighty-five per cent and the risk of brain injury by as much as eighty-eight per cent and that seventy-five per cent of the bicycle-related fatalities among children could have been prevented by a bicycle safety helmet.

The legislature is cognizant of the arguments from many motorcycle, motor scooter, and moped riders as to the "freedom of choice" that these riders have in choosing whether or not to wear a helmet when riding. The spirit and attraction of the free spirited American motorcycle rider as embodied in such films as "Easy Rider" or countless other television shows over the years is also recognized as part of the pleasure of riding. Helmet-less riding, to some, is seen as "cool". The legislature is also aware of similar feelings from the bicycling community.

There are very real costs to society, however, when this "freedom of choice" is exercised. Taxpayers, including riders who choose to exercise personal responsibility for the safety of themselves to the greatest extent possible, subsidize the health care costs of those unhelmeted accident victims through taxpayer dollars. Health care insurance for all is increased because of the higher health care costs that unhelmeted accident victims incur. Taxpayers also have to bear additional costs of programs intended to help unhelmeted accident survivors such as the neurotrauma special fund and advisory board established by Act 160, Session Laws of Hawaii 2002. Businesses, taxpayers, and the State as a whole, suffers when traffic is shut down due to a traffic fatality, which is a statistically higher probability when the accident involves an unhelmeted rider. Last, and most important of all, is the grief caused to the loved ones of an unhelmeted accident victim when the inevitable thought of whether a safety helmet would have saved their loved one enters their minds. Use of a safety helmet very well could have saved that life, as statistics show that more likely than not, safety helmets save lives. Mandating the wearing of safety helmets when riding or operating these vehicles is a relatively small sacrifice of personal liberty to help prevent tragedies to families and our community. Mandating this for the youngest in our community is a very small sacrifice when compared the tragedy of surviving one's children.

SECTION 2. Section 286-81, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (b) to read as follows:

"(b) No person less than eighteen years of age shall operate or ride as a passenger on a motorcycle, moped, or motor scooter on any highway, street, or any other public property in the State unless the person wears a safety helmet securely fastened with a chin strap."

SECTION 3. Section 291C-150, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsections (a) and (b) to read as follows:

"(a) No person under [sixteen] eighteen years of age shall operate a bicycle upon a street, bikeway, or any other public property unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that has been tested by a nationally recognized agency such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Safety Council, or the Children's Safety Network, and is designed to fit the user and protect against head trauma. This requirement also applies to a person who rides upon a bicycle while in a restraining seat that is attached to the bicycle or who rides in a trailer towed by the bicycle.

(b) A person who provides bicycles for hire shall not rent a bicycle to any person unless every person who is under age [sixteen] eighteen is wearing a bicycle helmet, as required in subsection (a), while operating the rented bicycle, occupying a restraining seat that is attached to the rented bicycle, or riding in a trailer towed by the rented bicycle."

SECTION 4. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.