Friends of Iowa City crash victim again pursue helmet law

One supporter says she doesn't see issue as political

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Friends of an Iowa City teen who died when she lost control of her moped will make another attempt at changing Iowa law to require young riders to wear helmets.

“Last year, we planted the seed,” Olivia Lofgren, now a St. Ambrose University student, said about an attempt to convince state legislators to require moped operators and risers younger than 18 to wear helmets.

This year, she hopes lawmakers will be more receptive to the idea that is “just about protecting children,” she said.

Lofgren’s friend and high school classmate, Caroline Found, 17, died in August 2011 after the moped she was operating struck a curb near a curve on Mormon Trek Boulevard in Iowa City and then struck a tree in the median.

Lofgren and others will meet with a Senate Transportation Subcommittee Thursday to call for passage of Senate File 37. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Joe Bolkcom, Bob Dvorsky, Rob Hogg, Jack Hatch, Matt McCoy and Herman Quirmbach, would require a person younger than 18 years of age to wear a safety helmet when operating a motorized bicycle. A violation would be a simple misdemeanor punishable by a scheduled fine of $100.

A year ago, members of a similar subcommittee were supportive, but declined to proceed with the bill, suggesting that there should be a limit in government’s oversight of personal actions.

It also was opposed by ABATE of Iowa the Iowa Motorcycle Dealers’ Association, whose members worried the law would make it easier for the state to require that motorcyclists wear helmets.

Lofgren doesn’t see it as a political issue.

“It’s not Democratic or Republican,” she said. “It’s not political like abortion or other issues.”

And while moped operators can choose to wear helmets, “Some kids don’t have parents telling them to put them on,” she said to explain why a law is necessary.

Since meeting with lawmakers last year, Lofgren and others supporting the bill have been raising awareness at schools.

“This year, more people are noticing,” she said. “We have more people making a statement.”

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