Louisiana’s bicycle helmet bill lacks teeth

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Sometimes it seems having a good idea isn’t enough. Even when that idea makes good sense.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Legislature passed a bill requiring all children under the age of 12 to wear helmets while riding bicycles.

And, while on its face the bill sounds like a smart measure for improving public safety, it isn’t.

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Because the Senate stripped away all penalties for violating the measure before it was passed. And, if signed into the law, the bill will require youngsters to wear bike helmets, but provide no penalties or consequences for those who violate the law. Nor does the bill specify how the new law will be enforced.

On the surface, it sounds like a good idea, like proactive legislature designed to protect the state’s children.

In reality, it is little more than a bunch of words on paper. With no plan for enforcement and, more important, no consequences for violating the law, the mandatory bicycle helmet law could prove vastly ineffective.

And that’s a shame.

Because we believe bicycle helmets on children, just like seat belts on adults, are important safety tools that ultimately save lives. And we believe the Louisiana Legislature, just like its Mississippi counterpart which failed to add teeth to the enforcement of the state’s mandatory seatbelt law, should be willing to draft and pass laws that will have a real impact on our society, instead of simply offering lip service to good ideas.

Our lawmakers in both Louisiana and Mississippi are well-intentioned. They just need to follow-through on their intent with the tools that allow others to enforce and enact the laws they develop.