Traffic safety bills stall in Legislature

Three bills introduced earlier this year to improve road safety have quietly died without discussion after failing to pass committee.

House Bill 1749 was introduced Jan. 16 and would require any operator or passenger of a motorcycle or bicycle to wear a helmet. However, after being referred Jan. 22 to the House committees on Transportation and Judiciary, the bill has made no additional progress.

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Two other bills, Senate bills 2229 and 2621, met a similar fate. If passed, they would have prohibited passengers from riding in the bed of a pickup truck, save for certain extenuating circumstances, and authorized counties to impose stricter limitations on passengers in pickup truck beds.

Both Senate bills were introduced Jan. 19 and have since been in limbo upon referral to Senate committees.

Bill 2229 could not proceed past the Senate committees on Transportation and Energy, Judiciary and Ways and Means. Bill 2621, meanwhile, stalled at the Transportation and Energy Committee, the Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee.

Having failed to proceed before the state Legislature’s crossover deadline March 8, the bills are now considered dead. While the content of the bills could be attached to other existing bills, such an action might be a tough sell considering the controversial nature of the bills.

Helmet bills such as House Bill 1749 often are deeply divisive, with many motorcyclist groups fiercely opposing mandatory helmet laws on grounds that they represent government interference with little actual impact on rider safety.

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Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa and Kona, chairwoman of the Transportation and Energy Committee and co-sponsor of the pickup truck bills, said when they were introduced that similar measures are introduced frequently but are always contentious, often opposed by rural farming communities.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.