485 P.2d 1038 (Utah 1971), 12268, State v. Acker

Docket Nº:12268.
Citation:485 P.2d 1038, 26 Utah 2d 104
Opinion Judge:ELLETT, Justice:
Party Name:STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Gary D. ACKER, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:Van Sciver, Florence, Hutchison & Sharp, Brian R. Florence, Odgen, for defendant-appellant. Vernon B. Romney, Atty. Gen., Lauren N. Beasley, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff-respondent.
Case Date:June 03, 1971
Court:Supreme Court of Utah

Page 1038

485 P.2d 1038 (Utah 1971)

26 Utah 2d 104

STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

Gary D. ACKER, Defendant and Appellant.

No. 12268.

Supreme Court of Utah.

June 3, 1971

Page 1039

[26 Utah 2d 105] Van Sciver, Florence, Hutchison & Sharp, Brian R. Florence, Odgen, for defendant-appellant.

Vernon B. Romney, Atty. Gen., Lauren N. Beasley, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff-respondent.

[26 Utah 2d 106] ELLETT, Justice:

The defendant appeals from a conviction of violating Section 41--6--107.8, U.C.A.1953 (Replacement Volume 5A). This statute requires any person operating or riding upon a motorcycle on a public highway where the posted speed limit is above 35 miles per hour to wear a crash helmet, etc.

The defendant contends that the statute is an invalid exercise of the police power in that it is an unreasonable infringement of his personal liberty and of his right to use his property as he sees fit. He further contends that the statute violates the equal protection clause of our constitution and is arbitrary and capricious in that one riding a motorcycle upon a street posted for speeds not exceeding 35 miles per hour does not need to wear the helmet. He further contends that the standards set forth for the type of headgear to be worn is not definitely set out.

We think the type of headgear prescribed is sufficiently specified and, besides that, he wore no headgear at all.

If the act is otherwise good, it is not bad because it applies only to those highways where speeds exceed 35 miles per hour. That harm from collisions and other mishaps increases directly as the square of speed is too well known to require any further discussion of this point. The legislature could well determine that 35 miles per hour should be the speed at which helmets would need to be worn in order to preserve life and limb.

The principal question to be answered is whether the legislature can require a motorcycle rider or operator to wear protective headgear at all. The defendant argues that since the statute requires riders as well as operators to wear the device, it must be assumed that the law was enacted solely for the purpose of protecting the individual wearer.

This does not necessarily follow. While it was undoubtedly the intention of the legislature to enact a measure which would protect the life and limb of its citizens, it also is evident that any measure taken which would protect the operator of a motorcycle would tend to avoid collisions with other traffic upon the highway. Even if it were to be assumed that the legislature intended to protect only those who were riding upon the motorcycle from harm, the public certainly has an interest in that regard. Whenever a citizen becomes maimed or is killed, the entire public is affected to some degree. As John Donne suggested, each citizen is a clod of the entire whole, and when one citizen is diminished, we all suffer. Both hospitals and relief rolls are crowded, and it is a proper exercise of police power for the legislature to enact statutes which would tend to keep citizens out of the one and off of the other. Whether the wearing of the helmet is [26 Utah 2d 107] likely to reduce accidents and thus avoid death and maiming is a matter for the legislative body to determine and not for the courts.

It is settled law that a statute is presumed to be constitutional unless it clearly violates some specific provision of

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the constitution. 1 We are unable to say that the statute clearly violates any provision of our constitution, and from what we have said above, it is obvious that we think the statute is valid.

While the courts of Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio have held motorcycle helmet statutes to be unconstitutional, the overwhelming weight of authority 2 is to the contrary, and Utah should and does align itself with the majority holding. 3

The judgment and sentence of the trial court are affirmed.

TUCKETT, J., concurs.

HENRIOD, Justice (concurring):

I concur. I also concur in what is said generally in the dissent about the erosion of our liberties, but I believe this case, though a topic for lively debate, may be classified as a legitimate subject for regulation within the police power, just as a law would be to prevent the almost synonymous circumstance of suicide. I believe no one successfully would be convincing if...

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