Friday, February 12, 1999

Nevada: Motorcycle Helmet Debate Returns

By Ed Vogel
Donrey Capital Bureau
Las Vegas Review-Journal

CARSON CITY -- Though he failed two years ago, a Reno assemblyman on Thursday once again introduced a bill to repeal Nevada's 28-year-old law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson (R-Reno) said he is more confident about the passage of Assembly Bill 201 this year than he was with a similar bill two years ago.

"We are in the process of counting our votes now," he said. "It looks like we are real close in both sides (the Assembly and Senate). I believe real strongly it is a freedom of choice issue."

Unlike in 1997, Gustavson's bill this time simply removes the requirement that riders wear helmets if they are over the age of 16. Two years ago, Gustavson's bill removed the helmet wearing requirement only for those over 21 who had at least one year of riding experience. That bill passed the Assembly, but died in the Senate.

Legislative analysts calculated passage of the bill in 1997 would cost the state about $3.5 million a year for additional medical treatment of cyclists who suffer brain injuries because of accidents.

Gustavson said it is true that indigent motorcyclists may have expensive health care costs, but he stressed so do other drivers who get into accidents.

"There is no real merit to that argument," he said. "People in automobile accidents can become a burden to the state, too. Motorcycle accidents are less than 1 percent of all accidents."

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