AUGUSTA — The state Senate on Wednesday voted 26-7 against a bill that would have required motorcycle riders to wear helmets while riding on Maine roads.
The vote followed a 123-21 decision against the bill in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Representatives from Lewiston-Auburn split on the issue, but lawmakers from more rural parts of Maine, including Franklin and Oxford counties, seemed unified in their opposition to mandated helmets for motorcycle riders.
Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said she supported the mandate because it was the right thing to do for safety and adults should set the example.
Maine law requires riders under 18 to wear a helmet, but adults can decide to wear a helmet or not.
Helmets prevent serious brain injuries and the associated medical costs that come with those who survive them, Craven said. Taxpayers help foot the bill for survivors on public medical programs; for those with private medical insurance, other ratepayers pay the price for expensive care and treatment for injuries that could be prevented or minimized with helmet use, she said.
She said for those most seriously disabled from motorcycle head injuries, there's an additional cost of institutional care, which is also often funded with taxpayers' money.
"A helmet would have saved their life, or would have at least prevented a serious brain injury," Craven said. "Other injuries often heal, but your brain doesn't heal as well. I am absolutely in favor of everyone wearing a helmet if they want to take risks like that."
Other lawmakers, including Rep. Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston, said they were not ready to mandate helmets for adults.
Lajoie, a former fire chief in Lewiston, said he needed more evidence that helmets made a significant difference.
"It's difficult for me to look at it and mandate grown-ups to do something," Lajoie said.
Other local lawmakers voting against the helmet mandate were Reps. Mike Carey, D-Lewiston; Nate Libby, D-Lewiston; Mike Beaulieu, R-Auburn; Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon; Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner; Jarrod Crocket R-Bethel; Paul Gilbert, D-Jay; Lance Harvell, R-Farmington; Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield; Lisa Villa, D-Harrison; Tom Winsor, R-Norway; and Sens. John Cleveland, D-Auburn; Jim Hamper, R-Oxford; Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls; John Patrick, D-Rumford; and Tom Saviello, R-Wilton.
Those supporting the helmet mandate were Reps. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, and Wayne Werts, D-Auburn.