New Hampshire Says No to PIP Insurance
Freedom of Choice States now facing discriminatory requirement

On Thursday, January 29, 1998, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to kill House Bill 1216. Had this bill been passed, it would have required New Hampshire motorcyclists to carry $1,000,000 (one million dollars) in liability insurance if they chose to ride without a helmet. New Hampshire law does not require adults to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Meanwhile, other vehicle operators would have been exempted from carrying similar coverage under the bill. Supporters of the bill, including the New Hampshire Brain Injury Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the NH Medical Society claimed that motorcyclists as a group were likely to be uninsured or underinsured and were therefore a burden to society.

HB1216 was originally heard in the House Transportation Committee on January 20, 1998. Testifying against the bill at that time were representatives of the New Hampshire Motorcyclists Rights Organization (NHMRO), the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). Prior to the hearing, NHMRO spearheaded a statewide grassroots effort to kill HB1216. Working in conjunction with NHMRO, MRF's Vice President of Government Relations Steve Zimmer and AMA's Rob Dingman presented testimony refuting the claims being made by the bill's sponsors. Further testimony indicated that this type of insurance may not be available to everyone and is extremely expensive. Additionally, the committee heard testimony from an attorney whose expertise is in personal injury accident claims. He stated that this type of liability insurance would not insure the policy holder, but rather the other party, thereby asking the victim to bear the cost of the liability caused by the driver of the other vehicle.

Following testimony, the House Transportation Committee voted 16-0 in favor of a motion made by Rep. Letourneau (R-Derry), reporting the bill "Inexpedient To Legislate" (ITL) sending the bill to the house floor on the consent calendar. In the New Hampshire state legislature all bills must be brought to the floor for a final vote, for consideration by the full body, where in some cases a bill is heard as a standalone measure. Bills with a unanimous committee report may be sent to the consent calendar, which is comprised of a number of bills to be voted either Yea or Nay as a group. HB1216 was voted down on the House floor in this manner. Transportation Committee Chairman Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) commented "this piece of legislation was clearly discriminatory towards motorcyclists." Rep. Letourneau added, "This bill was crafted as an insurance provision for un-helmeted motorcyclists claiming that they were a burden to the government for their care and subsistence and that motorcyclists were disproportionately underinsured compared to the rest of society. The committee heard no testimony, nor saw any data that supported that claim."

Remarking on the national implications of the bill, MRF's Steve Zimmer said, "Motorcyclists in all states need to be aware that personal injury insurance requirements are a very real threat to motorcycling. Furthermore, politically active motorcyclists should be aware that these bills are no longer being presented only in states where the repeal of an adult helmet law is in question. Freedom of choice states are being attacked as well. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation is unequivocally opposed to all such measures." MRF President Mark Buckner commented as well, saying "MRF applauds NHMRO and the New Hampshire state legislature for taking a stand on this issue. This shows that if we dig in our heels on these burdensome and unfair insurance requirements we can both maintain our freedom of choice and repeal current helmet laws without compromising our core values"


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