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Mac Made

Critics Falsely Claim That Bikers Are A Burden On Society

At the height of the riding season is when motorcyclists hear it most: misinformed critics charging a high incidence of un/under-insured motorcyclists causing a burden on society that gets stuck with the medical costs from accidents not covered by insurance.

The most recent version of this erroneous theory came in a report that aired Friday night, August 16, on ABC News' "World News Tonight."

But the charge that motorcyclists are a social burden is simply untrue, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

"Some lawmakers, members of the news media and others still subscribe to the 'social burden' fallacy that motorcyclists use more taxpayer dollars than other members of society to pay their medical bills," said Edward Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "Studies have shown that is false. Yet it is brought up time and again by those who want to place restrictions on motorcyclists."

Moreland pointed to a study done at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle during the 1980s that found 63.4 percent of the injured motorcyclists taken to the trauma center relied on public funds to pay their hospital bills. Critics charged that amounted to taxpayer subsidies for motorcycle injuries, but the director of the trauma center noted that 67 percent of the general patient population relied on public money to pay their hospital bills in the same time period.

Also, a study by the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center showed that 49.5 percent of injured motorcyclists had their medical costs covered by insurance, almost identical to the 50.4 percent of other road trauma victims were similarly insured.

In addition, the North Carolina study found that the average costs of motorcyclists' injuries are actually slightly lower than the costs for other accident victims. The presence or absence of a helmet was not shown to affect injury costs.

Moreland also pointed out that the cost of treating injured motorcyclists is minuscule compared to the nation's medical costs as a whole. The costs associated with treating all motorcycling injuries account for less than 0.001 percent of total U.S. health-care costs. And a significant percentage of those costs are paid through private insurance.

All told, about 1.16 percent of U.S. health-care costs are related to motor vehicle accidents, and motorcycles represented only 0.53 percent of the accident-involved vehicles nationwide in 1999.

Motorcycling critics often use the social-burden argument in efforts to get state lawmakers to pass, or retain, mandatory helmet-use laws. And in recent years, some motorcycling organizations have bolstered that argument by striking bargains with lawmakers in which motorcyclists agree to accept medical-insurance requirements in exchange for the right to ride without a helmet. These requirements lend support to the flawed social-burden argument, since the same insurance requirements are not imposed on car drivers.

"Some motorcyclists appear willing to agree to these expensive and dangerous economic tradeoffs," Moreland said. "Lawmakers subscribing to the social-burden theory, coupled with the willingness of some motorcyclists to accept special insurance requirements, could open the door for lawmakers to impose even more unwarranted requirements on motorcyclists."

The AMA supports voluntary helmet use for adults as part of a comprehensive approach to motorcycling safety, including wearing proper safety gear, getting rider training and educating motorists to watch for motorcycles on the road.

Motorcyclists who wish to respond to the ABC News report on this issue that appeared Friday night, August 16, can post their comments online on the "World News Tonight Forum"


The American Motorcyclist Association is a 270,000-member nonprofit organization. Established in 1924, the Association's purpose is to pursue, protect and promote the interests of motorcyclists, while serving the needs of its members. For more information, visit the AMA website at www.AMADirectlink.com

Published with permission.
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