Update on Motorcycle Issues at the 2017 Virginia General Assembly

I will start by apologizing for any spelling or grammatical errors. I am writing this in the Lansing Michigan airport. I have spent the weekend with members of ABATE of Michigan and had the honor of speaking at their annual meeting. They are a great group of motorcyclist rights advocates. My 6:00 am flight out of Lansing has been delayed until 9:30 am. Thus the opportunity to pen (figuratively of course) this update.

***UPDATE**** As I hit send I am actually sitting in Chicago O’Hare. Looks like I will be here for a while. However, the same disclaimer applies.

As many on this list know, ABATE of Virginia has facilitated the introduction of House Bill 2235, a bill that would allow adults to ride motorcycles without a motorcycle helmet. VCOM has been clear in its support of that right, which is currently enjoyed by riders in thirty-one states. VCOM does not support this bill however. More accurately, VCOM does not support the strategy of those who facilitated this bill. The bill as originally introduced would require a rider to be an organ donor in order to have the right to choose not to wear a motorcycle helmet. Legislative Services was going to publish the bill with a warning that the organ donor requirement may well be illegal. The bill was rewritten without the organ donor requirement. It is ABATE of Virginia’s intent to have the bill amended to add the organ donor requirement back into the language of the bill. VCOM strongly opposes this plan.

First and foremost, the organ donor plan is gruesome and perpetuates the idea that riding without a helmet increases deaths. We know that this is not the case (I will be happy to debate that issue at a later time), so why would we bolster that misconception with a condition that has nothing to do with riding motorcycles? What is the nexus between organ donation and choice? Additionally, the plan has legal problems as evidenced by the action taken by Legislative Services. Can the government trade legal rights and privileges for its citizen’s organs? If it can, should it? For what else should the government allow a citizen bargain his or her organs? What about those citizens who for religious or cultural reasons can’t donate organs? Are they left out? The list of legal and ethical questions surrounding this plan is unending. Finally, it is just wrong. Are we as motorcyclists so desperate for a change in the law that we are willing to offer up our body parts to pay for the right to make our own choices? I can only tell you that this motorcyclist is not. I am an organ donor because I chose to be one, not because of some barter with the government. It is VCOM’s opinion that the plan to amend the bill should be abandoned. It is bad for Virginia and is bad for motorcyclists.

VCOM believes that real change will come from building and maintaining relationships, not from gimmicks, and not from plans which demonstrate a willingness to trade our dignity for freedom. I have known the proponents of this plan for a long time. I appreciate their past efforts and their dedication to the rights of Virginia Motorcyclists. However, on this particular topic we simply cannot agree.
As always if you have any questions or comments concerning this topic, or if you simply want to let me know how much you disagree with my position, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group