Nevada Sen. Don Gustavson: Nevada should repeal helmet law |

Nevada Sen. Don Gustavson: Nevada should repeal helmet law

Sen. Don Gustavson
for the Nevada Appeal

There’s been passionate discussion concerning Nevada’s mandate that motorcyclists must wear helmets.

At one time this was a federal mandate, but when the feds removed their mandate, most states eventually became choice states. Nevada has yet to catch up, because opponents argue that we need this law to protect ourselves.

Opponents who want this law only cite statistics that makes their charts look good, but their claims that helmet mandates are advantageous are easily disproved. One opponent submitted claims listing higher costs for Las Vegas’ University Medical Center trauma patients during 2010 when helmets were not worn. When I requested UMC’s 2009 stats, the results were opposite.

Opponents ignore other facts, such as higher incidences of spinal injuries as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when helmets are worn. Could this be because of the force incurred on the stem of your neck when wearing what becomes a weighted “mill stone” during impact?

Furthermore, these “experts” can’t tell us how many injuries and fatalities could’ve been avoided if helmets were a choice rather than a mandate – try wearing a helmet as you go about your daily duties and see how well you function while your peripheral vision and hearing is obstructed. Now wear that same helmet when the thermometer in Las Vegas reaches 100 degrees! Helmets can affect the ability to function normally, increasing the likeliness of becoming the victim of an accident that could have been avoided. Maybe this is why motorcycle fatalities dropped in Arizona even as registrations increased after repeal of their helmet mandate, as reported by the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

This notion that motorcyclists create a “social burden” is a myth. Clark County commissioner Lawrence Weekly, serving as chairman of UMC board of hospital trustees, was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal as saying, “The cost to our taxpayers is astronomical … we might have to close our doors.”

It might surprise you to learn that the commissioner wasn’t referring to motorcyclists, he was referring to the $2 million in unpaid cost each month UMC incurred to provide kidney dialysis for illegal immigrants. The point I make is there are larger burdens on taxpayers in this country that are being ignored by our policy-makers, and I find it disingenuous that opponents of choice would rather campaign on specious arguments to force helmet-wearing on our own citizens while ignoring real social burdens that bankrupt our taxpayers.

If the objective of Carson City lawmakers is the prevention of injuries and fatalities, then they’ve failed to be effective in that goal; the Brain Injury Association of America, the country’s largest brain injury advocacy organization, reports that an estimated 1.7 million Americans in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. BIAA also reports that motorcyclists are the smallest fraction of transportation-related TBI. Pedestrians scored higher, and the biggest blame went to occupants of enclosed motor vehicles. Mandated helmet laws for those who walk or travel in cars? I dare any legislator to crusade on that proposal!

• Nevada Senator Don Gustavson represents District 2 in Nevada.