Helmet bill dead, but some still push for moped safety


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Even though a recent push to require minors to wear moped helmets has failed, one local business said it will continue to urge riders to protect their heads.

At the urging of local teens, who were sparked in part by the death of West High student Caroline Found in a moped accident in August, state legislators introduced a bill this year that would have required those under 18 to wear helmets while operating a motorcycle or moped. Found died Aug. 11, 2011, after crashing into a tree while driving her moped without a helmet.

Though the bill failed, representatives from local business MopedU said they will promote helmet safety this spring by partnering with UI Student Health Service to encourage students to operate motorcycles and mopeds safely.

John Bass, who co-owns MopedU with Bryan Ilg, said he and his employees will distribute helmets to 150 students who pledge to wear helmets while riding.

"It's sad Iowa doesn't have a helmet law," Bass said in an email.

A group of Caroline's friends also founded Hope for Helmets, an organization promoting helmet awareness for bike and moped riders. Though MopedU and Hope for Helmets are not connected, members from both groups said safety is the primary goal.

Olivia Lofgren Leah Murray, Abby Ashton, Caroline Van Voorhis, and Abigail Baron said they have more plans to promote their cause after their attempt to introduce legislation mandating minors wear helmets when driving failed in a Senate subcommittee last week.

"We are going to keep fighting until Iowa gets a partial helmet law … this year, next year, or 15 years from now — we won't give up," Lofgren said.

Lofgren said the group is set to team up with the UI Brain Injury Association in a run/walkathon to raise funds for increased awareness. The dates for the event have not been decided.

Hope for Helmets, which began in August, also has support from the Iowa Medical Society, emergency-medical technicians, and the Emergency Medical Society.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, helped the girls propose the bill requiring those under 18 in Iowa to wear helmets on two-wheel vehicles.

"The key to the whole discussion is what kept the girl from putting the helmet on," he said, "Everyone has a right to put a helmet on."

Bolkcom said establishing a helmet law would put more pressure on people to wear helmets. He said Iowa is only one of three states that don't require people to wear helmets.

"Iowa does require seat belts, and I think it would be reasonable for this state to require minors to wear helmets on mopeds," he said.

Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, a member of the Senate transportation subcommittee, said his community also endured a fatal moped accident last year. However, he said, safety enforcement such as the helmet law should be decided by policymakers in individual cities, not the state.

"This should be a local control issue," he said. "Each community should be held responsible."

Feenstra said his community has created an ordinance for kids to wear helmets.

Lofgren said she and her friends do not see the failed bill as a stopping point.

"The bill has already been educating people," she said. "We just need to keep on educating. This bill not passing is more of a motivation to keep going and working on this bill."

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