Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

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Motorcyclists sue over enforcement of Nevada’s helmet law

Twelve motorcycle riders filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against Clark County and five cities within the county, charging arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of Nevada’s helmet law.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court names as defendants the county and the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Mesquite; and Boulder City.

If certified as a class, the suit could represent more than 40,000 motorcycle riders in the county.

The suit, filed by Las Vegas attorney Travis Barrick, charges "defendants, through their agents, have an ongoing pattern and practice of issuing helmet tickets to the class members that are not supported by constitutionally sufficient probable cause, thereby violating the civil rights of the class members."

This violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring unreasonable search and seizure, the lawsuit says.

The suit also alleges violations of the 14th Amendment protections against arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, charging the defendants, through their agents, "have an ongoing pattern and practice of dismissing helmet tickets when contested in the courts or appealed to the courts, thereby denying the class members their due process rights to challenge enforcement of the Nevada Helmet Law."

The suit also alleges there’s a disparity in fines and fees for helmet law violations with no rational basis for the disparities; and that the helmet law is enforced "as a pretext for invading the liberties and civil rights" of the class members.

Barrick wasn’t available to elaborate on the allegations and the defendants have not yet responded to the lawsuit.

Efforts over the years to repeal Nevada’s 1972 law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets as a safety measure have failed, most recently this year.

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  1. I say let them ride as they want, I have seen many motorcycle crashes over the years driving the interstate highways, they all end up dead so the helmet is just there to collect bugs. A safe biker does not need a helmet, the unsafe ones the helmet is not going to help much. Make them have medical insurance in return for no helmet law.

  2. Man, a tough issue. On the one hand, medical stats clearly indicate the chances of surviving a crash increase significantly if wearing a helmet. Yet, the irony is Nevada allows many other "risky" freedoms (behaviors) other states don't.

    I wear a helmet every time I ride. Frankly, I think those who don't are irresponsible. But, maybe it's their right to be irresponsible. I'm not the boss of them.

    What would be fair is if those who choose not to wear helmets sign a waiver releasing the rest of us from supporting them in their medical expenses due to brain injuries. We should not have to pay for their choice. Or, have a stratified insurance system wherein those who don't wear helmets pay higher rates (as is currently done with many insurance companies regarding smoking).

  3. The problem with the law is that it is a misdemeanor not a citation and the law doesn't specify that DOT approved helmet be worn so whats's the point. If it's for safety an approved helmet should be specified but if not then it's not for safety it's just for looks.

  4. On one hand it sounds like a good idea to have riders sign a waiver at the time of their license being issued to forego medical assistance and other expenses relating to injuries brought on by their irresponsibility. On the other hand, how could you possibly recuperate financial losses from someone who would then in turn be unable to work a job to pay back those debts?

    Just lift the ban and let mother nature take over. You know you'll possibly die, so you're taking responsibility and it's all on you. I don't want to be in your business any more than you want me to, so we're cool.

  5. I must have got a different version of the story than most. I re read it and still did not see one thing about anyone wanting to ride without a helmet. Maby you will call me brain dead too, but it looks like they are suing for arbitray and dicriminatory enforcement, not the fact that they must wear a helmet.

  6. In response to:

    I must have got a different version of the story than most. I re read it and still did not see one thing about anyone wanting to ride without a helmet. Maybe you will call me brain dead too, but it looks like they are suing for arbitray and dicriminatory enforcement, not the fact that they must wear a helmet.

    I'll just say:

    You obviously read the article... and have some appreciation for what it reported; those arguing the helmet "issue" (wearing or not wearing one) obviously can only read the large print of the headline of the article. This suit is way "bigger" than donning or not donning head gear.

  7. The lawsuit has nothing to do with repeal of the helmet law. It has to do with the arbitrary enforcement of the law as written. If successful, the requirement to wear "headgear" under NRS 486.231 will still apply. BTW, the law does not define "headgear" and the word "helmet" does not appear anywhere.

  8. @weezy; @dangerous_biker; @DoctorAmmo:

    While this article may not have anything to do with the actual Regulatory Statute (referred to as "Helmet Law") per se and does in fact deal with the discriminatory enforcement of said law, the general consensus here is that not only is the law not necessary, but if we were to eradicate it entirely then we wouldn't even be having this debate let alone lawsuit that tax dollars are going to pay for. Remove the unpopular and un-nessiarry law and things would be fine.

    Of course that's not going to happen. Police need at least 2 reasons to pull someone over, and just like seatbelt laws they aren't going to give that up. If you can't pull someone over, you can't generate that lucrative ticket revenue, let alone protect yourself from racial profiling lawsuits either.

  9. I even hate the dorky helmets on little kids and their bicycle or skate boards. But, they are going faster and up against bigger elements than a football player, and there are constant injuries on the field.

    Catch 22...I would hate to kill someone on a cycle because they had no helmet..but I guess you can involve OSHA. You have to wear hard hats on job sights, helmets during combat, why not on a cycle.

  10. Mike Greenwald - It's nice to see that someone actually understands the article, thanks!

    By far hands down the highest percentage of motorcycle accidents are the direct result of inattentive automobile drivers yakking on the phone, texting or applying their makeup.

  11. As a rider who has had two crashes while on a motorcycle, I think that helmets are definately needed for safety. Please, someone, show me an insurance policy that would cover medical bills in the millions if a rider was forced to undergo emergency life-saving care. What if this person was uninsured? His motorcycle insurance policy definately wouldn't cover any care.

    It just makes sense to have a helmet law. So many people complained about Nevada's seatbelt law. It's a shame that people complain about regulations aimed at prolonging their life.

  12. For the comments aimed at the use and utility of helmets or the insurance and or medical costs, I am certain that you understand that the cause of death for a motorcyclist falls into various categories. The documented categories are blunt force trauma to the torso, bleeding from the limbs and at the bottom of the list is head trauma. The percentages apply to helmeted and non-helmeted riders.

    This lawsuit has nothing to do with the helmet. This lawsuit deals only with probable cause, enforcement, and inequality of enforcement of a law.

    Mike