In Arizona, you don't mess with regulations on who can ride in the back of a pickup truck, and you don't force a helmet on a motorcyclists' head.
That was made clear Wednesday, when a bill to mandate helmets got its first public consideration in years and promptly died.
Even the Democratic colleagues of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, voted against House Bill 2046.
Still, Friese, a trauma surgeon, said he was pleased his proposal received a lengthy discussion. And in contrast to the last time a helmet law was up for debate, the discussion was civil and relatively quiet.
Although no one could immediately pinpoint the last time the issue came before a committee, the prior proposal inspired bikers to circle the Capitol mall, longtime staffers said. The rumble from the engines was so loud it was heard inside House and Senate chambers and shook office partitions.
At Wednesday's hearing, trauma surgeons testified about the higher risk riders take if they forego a helmet, which is only required for people younger than 18. Bikers decked out in leather and bandannas told lawmakers the greater peril came from cars and trucks and said more education for all drivers is the better solution.
“It comes down to liberty, freedom and the U.S. Constitution," said Rep. Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City.
Friese's bill would have provided an opt-out if the rider paid an annual fee. Proceeds would feed the Highway User Revenue Fund, which is used to maintain the state's roads.
Friese said he may try again next year, looking for a middle ground that promotes safety but does not impinge on people's freedoms.
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