Pennsylvania Governor Vetoes Changes to Helmet Law

Harrisburg, PA. Wednesday, December 23, 1998 ... Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge vetoed S.B. 279. This bill, passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the lame duck session in November, would have modified the helmet law to give motorcycle riders over the age of 21 with two years experience or completion of rider education training the freedom to choose to wear a helmet or not. The Governor's office called all the principle parties working for this legislation to a meeting this morning.

According to reports from those present and information gathered from the Governor's press release, the reason for the veto was due to language inadvertently included that removed the mandatory eye protection language currently in effect. The Governor proceeded to veto the bill even though supporters promised to reinstate the eye protection language in the next session, stating, "….were I to sign Senate Bill 279 at this time, it would potentially be months before the General Assembly could pass another bill amending the appropriate sections of the vehicle code." The Governor went on to say, "I am prepared to sign a bill that repeals the helmet law so long as that bill retains requirements that motorcycle operators wear protective eyewear."

ABATE of Pennsylvania's legislative coordinator, Charles Umbenhauer, commenting on the governor's actions noted that "Today, we have taken one step backward and nine steps forward. Governor Ridge's unqualified support for voluntary helmet use, made known for the first time today, will provide tremendous impetus as we revisit this issue early next year." One of the leaders of ABATE said, "We were never here for the short haul. We've been put down time and time again. We'll be back….."

Steve Zimmer, MRF Vice President of Government Relations, stated, "It is unfortunate that Governor Ridge decided to veto S.B. 279. Still, having the Governor on record as being supportive of freedom of choice on the helmet issue bodes well for the future. I know the freedom fighters in Pennsylvania will be back next year and will ultimately be successful in their efforts to modify Pennsylvania's helmet law."

For further information contact Steve Zimmer at 202-546-0983 or by E-Mail at

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