NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Motorcyclists and travel groups are at odds over a bill in Tennessee that could result in looser helmet laws.

Tennessee House Bill 42 would establish a pilot program to make wearing helmets optional for motorcyclists and passengers over the age of 21, with the exception of those who are insured on TennCare, the state of Tennessee’s Medicaid program. AAA has publicly opposed the legislation.

Steve “Buda” Crouch, the owner of Biker Wear in Johnson City and an avid motorcycle rider, said that in his experience, helmets only protect people to a certain extent. A motorcyclist’s life is in their hands when they decide to ride, he said.

“I have been in numerous wrecks myself, but most of them weren’t on highways or roadways; they were more on dirt bikes,” Crouch said. “And I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I have been in one that I was wearing a helmet. But that’s not what saved my life.”

Crouch said he believes that wearing a helmet should be a personal choice.

“People just aren’t wanting to wear them,” Crouch said. “They feel that it’s their prerogative not to wear them because it’s their body.”

The second-largest AAA club in North America, The Auto Club Group, which covers Tennessee and several other states, opposes the bill. Organization representatives stated that rolling back helmet laws is not what most Tennesseans want, according to a survey conducted two years ago.

“What we found was that 92% of Tennessee residents were in favor of keeping our current helmet law here in Tennessee, which is a universal or an all-rider helmet law,” Megan Cooper of AAA said. “Of the 8% that were not in favor, the biggest reason was that they felt that they had or that they wanted that right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet.”

AAA leadership feels the proposed bill lacks structure and isn’t defined enough to be effectively enforced.

“It is very concerning because even if a young rider is riding, and it appears that they’re younger than 21 and they’re not wearing a helmet, they still could not be pulled over simply because they’re not wearing a helmet,” Cooper said.

The bill is scheduled to be discussed by the House Transportation Subcommittee and Senate Transportation and Safety Committee on March 8.