A Maryland Senate committee is debating a bill that would relax the state's law for mandatory helmet use by motorcycle riders.
The bill would allow for anyone over the age of 21 to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, provided they have an insurance policy of more than $10,000 to pay for injuries they might suffer in a crash. Maryland is one of 19 states, plus D.C., that have mandatory helmet laws on the books.
Shelly Holcomb is the executive director of ABATE of Maryland, a motorcycle riding group that supports the bill. To her, the matter is about freedom of choice, but Holcomb adds that motorcycle safety is more than just helmets, which she says are not a guarantee of safety.
"I'm hard of hearing. The hearing is much clearer when you don't have a helmet on," Holcomb says. "Helmets can impede your ability to see peripherally. After wearing those hot helmets all day long, it does affect you in some way. When it's really hot outside, I see people with those full-face helmets on, those things get very hot."
But opposition to the bill in Annapolis is strong among lawmakers. The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee, which is taking up the measure, heard a similar version of it last year, and didn't even schedule a vote on the bill.