Las Vegas Sun

August 27, 2014

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SUN EDITORIAL:

A common-sense law

Legislature should kill proposal to repeal Nevada’s motorcycle helmet law

In one legislative session after another, Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, has introduced a bill that would repeal the mandatory helmet law only to see the proposal die in committee.

But this year — the fifth time he introduced the bill — things are different. As the Las Vegas Sun’s Anjeanette Damon reported, a committee chairwoman actually let the bill come up for a vote, and it passed. It was then sent to the Senate Finance Committee, which will consider financial implications of the proposal, and it’s unlikely to get any further. It’s a bad bill. There is overwhelming evidence that motorcycle helmets save lives, prevent serious injuries and save money.

Those arguing for repealing the bill say wearing a helmet is a matter of personal choice — one said it was a “liberty bill” — and Gustavson grumbled about the government telling people what to do.

For years, the federal government forced states to pass helmet laws and, at one time, most states had mandatory helmet laws. After the federal pressure relented, many states repealed or weakened helmet laws. Nevada, which passed its law in the 1970s, is one of 20 states that has a law requiring every motorcycle rider to wear a helmet. Nevada neighbors Arizona, Utah and Idaho give riders 18 years and older the opportunity to go without a helmet.

Supporters of repeal laws have consistently dismissed or understated the effectiveness of helmet laws, and they have used specious arguments and studies to support their positions. Some of them have even claimed there is no correlation between helmets and safety, but consider what happened in Pennsylvania.

The state repealed its mandatory helmet law in 2003, and within two years had seen a 19 percent spike in motorcycle registration. In the same two years, the number of head injuries requiring hospitalization from motorcycle crashes increased 42 percent. There was also a 32 percent increase in deaths from head injuries in motorcycle crashes.

It is a fact that helmets save lives and prevent injuries, as demonstrated by a major study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which considered 40,000 motorcycle crashes nationwide that happened from 2002 to 2006. Published this year, the study found that in cases in which riders were wearing helmets, there were 65 percent fewer traumatic brain injuries, 37 percent fewer deaths and 22 percent fewer cervical spine injuries that can cause paralysis.

There is a financial benefit to helmet laws as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2008, helmet laws saved more than 1,800 lives and $1.3 billion in costs. The agency said Nevada’s helmet law resulted in saving the lives of 26 riders and more than $49 million in costs.

The public would pay the price of a repeal of the law. There would be higher medical costs from motorcycle crashes, meaning higher insurance rates. As well, taxpayers would pick up the bill for emergency services and the care of uninsured riders. And that’s not to mention the toll of a lost life.

Some motorcycle riders will use the old libertarian argument that they should be free to ride as they wish no matter the consequences. However, when society pays the price, it’s not their choice. The Legislature should kill the bill.

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  1. "Nevada's helmet law resulted in saving the lives of 26 riders and more than $49 million in costs."

    That's about $1.5 million in medical expenses that the taxpayer would pay because the rider's insurance didn't exist or cover those costs, and he will never work again. Some freedom. Carbon monoxide is a much cleaner and inexpensive way to commit suicide.

  2. If the goal is to save lives then ban cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, buses, trains, airplanes, cycles, and horses.

    If the goal is to be a busy body who pretends to care about other people then ban helmets.

    If hospital costs are a problem, then don't pay the bill for riders who don't use helmets.

  3. Absolutely correct.

  4. I remember when cops, hiway patrol would have crash helmets and put them on when they chased cars.

    Since most of the helmetless bikers are liberloonietoonians and Repubiklans you could not tell if they had brain injuries anyway. Just let them put up an extra $50 a year to insure their brains. (that's all they are worth)

  5. If its common sense then the law is not needed, if you are killed while not wearing a helmet call it suicide.

  6. If the Democrat party shills that write editorials for the LVSun are so concerned about hospital costs then I hope we will start to see editorials about the enormous medical costs the American taxpayers have had to foot in regards to illegal immigration. But, I won't hold my breath.

  7. I can't believe that some people believe that repealing helmet laws is a good idea. It isn't.

    It is the second decade of the 21st century can't we find something more productive to do than roll back a sensible law.

    If you don't want to wear a helmet, move someplace else.

  8. Also, all women must wear bras because they may suffer injuries when using ringer washing machines.

  9. The FACTS ARE that motorcycle helmets, especially the ones pushed on us with the DOT emblem, DO NOT significantly reduce the risk of head trauma but INCREASE the likelihood of neck and spinal injury. The states INCLUDING PENNSYLVANIA that repealed the helmet laws saw a SIGNIFICANT drop in motorcycle related crashes (see PENNDOT report from 2008 after 2003 repeal). The number of motorcycle related traumatic brain injury remains the same at 5.9 per 10,000 registered motorcycles. The DOT helmets are only recomended up to 13mph. 52% of helmets tested FAIL testing at 13mph. According to the National Highway Traffic Administrations CODES study motorcyclists are no more dependant on public sources for medical costs than motor vehicle operators. Therefore all of you claiming how much safer "WE" are wearing helmets should wear one in your car and reqire all pedestrians and passengers to wear one too. This is because THE FACTS ARE that according to the Brain Institute of America 62% of all transportation related brain injurues are accounted for by occupants of enclosed motor vehicles. This is followed up by pedestrians representing 13% and bicyclists representing 7%. Only 6% of all transportation related brain injuries are represented by MOTORCYCLISTS! Another 12% is represented by"other" whoever that is. Most degrading and insulting comments previously posted are probably done so by the brain injured 62% listed. Get educated BEFORE you post. "WE" believe more in EDUCATION than MANDATORY RESTRICTION.