2017-06-01 / Neighbors

Thanks to concern, bill will require helmets

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

Beginner motorcycle riders in Maine are required to wear a helmet for their first year of riding, and all the time if they’re younger than 18. However, the same requirement has not applied to mopeds. Even younger than age 18, helmets are not required.

A moped is defined as any two-wheeled vehicle with a motor smaller than 50cc. That may not sound like much, but as engine efficiencies have increased, greater power and speed has resulted. Today’s mopeds are surprisingly fast and they are popular with students. It is logical that our young people and new riders should be required to wear helmets, but there is no such law on the books.

All of this was frustrating to Biddeford School Resource Officer Paul Rondeau. Paul has worked as the school resource officer at Biddeford High School for seven years. He is very highly regarded and valued by the students and staff alike. He even asked for and received permission to wear the school colors as part of his uniform. Officer Rondeau has become part of the fabric of the school, cares deeply about the students and wants them to be safe.

Seeing many students riding without helmets and concerned for their safety, Paul approached me back in December to see if there was anything we could do about the problem. Together with Matt Harrington, an active duty patrol officer who is also a state representative from Sanford, I submitted legislation to change the helmet requirements to also apply to mopeds. The proposed legislation put the requirement right in line with the motorcycles: younger than 18 all the time; and older than 18, for your first year with the new motorcycle or moped. It includes passengers as well – riding without a helmet as a passenger of an inexperienced operator can be particularly dangerous.

We submitted the new legislation to the Transportation Committee, and Officer Rondeau came up to Augusta and testified. Unfortunately, I had to be away that day, but Sen. Susan Deschambault filled in for me and presented the bill. It must have gone well, because the legislation received unanimous support from the committee. From there, support was also strong in the House and the Senate, and we enacted the bill and it became law. It is a common sense change that will help keep our students safer.

Even though the new law will not go into effect until after the Legislature adjourns later this summer, please ride safely. And whether you’re required to or not, consider wearing protective headgear when riding your motorcycle or moped – the roads are busy in the summer and your safety is important.

Rep. Martin Grohman (D-Biddeford) is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature. Outside the Legislature, he is chairman of the Solid Waste Commission in Biddeford, and hosts a podcast for entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show, which is available on iTunes. Sign up for updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/ repgrohman

Return to top