Sue Morrow: Muth must be kidding with harebrained helmet idea
For the Nevada Appeal
I have just three words for ultra-conservative Chuck Muth’s proposal for garnering revenues to help solve the state’s $880 million budget shortfall: Surely you jest.
In a recent column Muth suggested that a way to increase state revenue would be to amend Nevada’s motorcycle helmet law. He proposes that there be two tiers of motorcycle licenses wherein those who opt to ride without helmets pay a premium fee. Those who willingly wear helmets would pay a lesser fee for their licenses, according to Muth’s wacky plan.
“In addition to the revenue raised by the new helmetless licenses, the tourism increased by the motorcycle rider community would be huge,” wrote Muth. “That would boost room tax revenues, food tax revenues, gaming tax revenues and entertainment tax revenues … all without raising taxes,” he said.
During many years of covering the Legislature, I have seen countless attempts to ditch the long-standing helmet law. I have heard hours and hours of testimony in committee hearings in support of such action.
Statistics outweigh, by far, the emotional pleas of the so-called free spirits who yearn to experience the rush of the wind in their faces as they roar along our highways and roads.
There is ample documentation as to the severity of head injuries sustained by helmetless cyclists who have been involved in accidents.
A report by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety noted that hospital studies in states that had repealed helmet laws showed costs for treating brain-injured motorcyclists soared in the years following repeal, and deaths increased by large percentages.
Motorcyclists who believe wearing a helmet “is a matter of personal choice ignore the cost to taxpayers and governments of picking up the pieces and the tab when they crash,” said Judith Lee Stone, the Advocates’ president. She said only about 50 percent of crash victims have private health care insurance, placing the cost burden of treatment for the other 50 percent squarely on the taxpayers.
“A rider’s choice stops being personal when it ends up costing all of us,” she said.
During the 2007 Nevada legislative session, there was testimony on yet another bill to repeal the helmet law that the typical traumatic head injury accident costs $2 million over the lifetime of the survivor, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, a license for a motorcyclist is the same as for a vehicle driver, $21.50. It’s a safe bet that even the revenue from a “premium” license wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket to what taxpayers pay towards medical treatment for uninsured, un-helmeted motorcyclists.
Chuck Muth, surely you jest.
• Sue Morrow is a longtime journalist and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. She may be reached at email@example.com.