Here we go again... Chiming
in with their side of the story, we've got the
AMA's point of view right here...
At the height of the riding season is when
motorcyclists hear it most ; misinformed critics
charging that people who ride motorcycles are a
burden on society because of their medical
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
"Studies have shown that
is false. Yet it is brought up time and again by
those who want to place restrictions on
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
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
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
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
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.