The power of the partnership between survivor advocates and injury prevention professionals far
exceeds the power of either working alone.


Mary Price
Californians for Safe Motorcycling


Jimmy, Jonny and Joel Holquin were brothers. Jimmy was 18 and a motorcyclist. On Friday, September 6, 1985, Jimmy left for school, leaving his helmet behind. On the way, he swerved, hitting a car broadside which was making an unexpected u-turn in front of him, flew over its top and landed on his head. Jonny called his mother, Mary, at work, saying a friend had just seen Jimmy bleeding on the street. Mary, Jonny and Joel watched helplessly at the hospital throughout the weekend as doctors tried in vain to treat the massive brain injury. Jimmy died on Monday morning.


One week after Jimmy’s funeral, Mary was the first person on the scene of another motorcycle crash. She went over to help the helmeted driver, a young man about Jimmy’s age. He was crying - his leg hurt. His helmet had scratches on it, but the young man was talking. He would live.

Mary “saw” her son’s face in that helmet at that crash. She was convinced that if Jimmy had worn a helmet, he would have lived. She was determined to get a law in California that required every motorcyclist to wear a helmet. She had no experience in politics or advocacy, but she was not to be denied.

She called the Secretary of State to find out how to pass a law. She was told she would need to provide 375,000 signatures or find a legislator to carry the bill. She started collecting signatures and contacting legislators.

Assemblyman Dick Floyd (D - Gardena) had carried a helmet bill in 1980, but it never got out of committee. Floyd agreed to meet with her. He showed up at the restaurant in jeans and a belt buckle that said, “Born to Ride.” He told her if she did all the lobbying, he would carry the bill.

AB (Assembly Bill) 36 was introduced in December, 1986. The bill had many hurdles: Transportation and Ways and Means Committees in both the Assembly and Senate, floor votes in both chambers, and a governor’s signature.

Mary was a single mom, working in a factory manufacturing D-RAMS in a wafer fab. She re-scheduled her job to work nights - 6pm-6am - so she could lobby all day. Life was hard. Her mother had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

For two years, she was the sole lobbyist - unpaid. Assemblyman Floyd offered to help her set up a nonprofit organization and find funding. She set up Californians for Safe Motorcycling, but was unable to find any funding for it, until just before the bill became law. “Everyone at organizing and committee meetings had a salary, except me.” But, then “she did not owe anybody anything”, which she thought might be one reason she was so effective.

The issue become intensely partisan. The Republican Caucus urged members to defeat the bill. However, many republicans were sympathetic and helped pass the bill. Her most vocal non-elected opponents were the Hells Angels and members of ABATE (American Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments). They would all ride their motorcycles and surround the capitol on hearings days. They argued: “Let those who ride, decide!” Get government off our backs, we are adults and free to choose. She and her allies countered: “Let those who pay have the final say!” And whose freedom of choice? “Jimmy left me no freedom of choice but to bury him”, says Mary.

During each session, Mary counted votes. She visited every legislator before every vote, so she would know where each stood. A refusal to say where they stood usually signaled opposition. She became an avid observer of power politics and horse-trading. For example, one assemblyman who had previously supported the bill said that if Dick Floyd did not support gun control, he would not vote for the helmet law.

AB36 made it thru all of the committees in two years, but Governor Deukmejian vetoed it in 1988. Dick Floyd reintroduced it as AB8 in December of that year. It passed the legislature, but again the governor vetoed it in 1989.

Mary’s work at the capitol was all-consuming. She was very tired most of the time. Having no financial support for advocacy, she had money troubles. She was portrayed as an over-protective, over-reactive mom, even as someone trading sexual favors for votes! She received death threats in telephone calls. She had time and energy for nothing else, including her other sons, whom she feels she “lost” as well. But she felt she had no choice; it was up to her to get a helmet law passed. Jonny and Joel urged her to continue.

Floyd reintroduced the bill again in 1991 as AB7. California had a new governor who let it be known that he was open to considering a helmet law. For a third time, the legislature passed the bill, and it became the very first bill Governor Pete Wilson signed into law. Researchers have reported significant decreases in deaths and severe head injuries among motorcyclists since the law took effect in 1992.

Mary has just about recovered from her exhaustion. Life is easier. She is happily married, and has moved out of California. She even has taken up motorcycling with her husband who is an avid rider. So she goes to rallies, mixes with other riders, keeps her fingers on the pulse of motorcycle helmet politics, and monitors annual attempts to repeal “her law” in California.


Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety
750 First St. NE, Suite 901
Washington, DC 20002
T: 202-408-1711
E: advocates@saferoads