Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Motorcycle Friendly Nevada?

Original Article: October 2010 Southwest Edition
By TigerLily

The spirit of motorcycling is under attack across the country on many fronts.  Twenty-two states still have laws mandating adults to wear helmets.  A California Bill recently passed to outlaw loud pipes.  Motorcycle rights activists predict that this law will have far-reaching, harmful effects, as it will be illegal to purchase aftermarket pipes that are even more quiet than stock pipes.  Checkpoints to stop motorcycles only are rising across the country.  

How did we get so far off our Constitutional  track?  Typically, laws are well intentioned.  But left unchecked, those laws will be the death of our American way of life - and most certainly, the death of our motorcycling culture.

This article takes a critical look at one seemingly benign – even benevolent – State program.  The point is that  - like other public bureaucracies - it is causing harm.  That example is the Nevada Rider Motorcycle Safety Program.

This Program was established in 1991.  Its primary purpose “is to conduct quality rider training throughout Nevada.”  It is funded by a $6 fee that only motorcyclists have to pay when registering their vehicle and by federal grants.  The total revenue was over a million dollars in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, combined.  I imagine that in 1991, a little extra fee on a motorcycle registration wasn’t a big deal.  Who cares, if it’s for riding skills, right?

First off, why should motorcyclists be the ONLY vehicles in Nevada required to pay an EXTRA fee for safety?  According to a 2009 NHTSA report, 52% of all motorcycle crashes involved another vehicle.  The report, however, fails to capture how many of the single-motorcycle crashes were caused by another vehicle that did not get hit.  So if other vehicles are causing us to crash, why should WE be the ones paying for ALL the safety?  It’s illogical, but we are stuck with this program – for now.

In the meantime, let’s examine Nevada's governor-appointed Advisory Board on Motorcycle Safety, which is responsible for the Nevada Rider Program.

1.  This year, $126,000 was taken from the Motorcycle Safety Program.  I first heard of this stunning report by Larry Loyd, MSF Instructor for Henderson Harley Davidson.  This report was confirmed by Ken Kiphart, Board Administrator, who said, "a transfer of funds [was] legal after the 2010 legislative special session..."  To Mr. Kiphart's credit, the removal of those funds was out of his control, as legislators passed a special law granting them new authority to move money from a number of specialty funds to balance the State budget.

2.  There appears to be no attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of this Program compared to private sector training options.  Therefore, the question becomes, why exist?  Vic "Doc" Moss, owner of Cycle School Motorcycle Training says: "The program was originally established when no private businesses were willing to provide training.  But when private industry is willing and able, there is no reason for taxpayers to subsidize this type of education.  The program should be phased out or shrink it to handle only the rural areas."  Mr. Nelson Ruehl, known as "Renegade," a motorcycle rights activist with several organizations including the U.S. Defenders says, "I feel motorcyclists take the safety course to avoid the DMV test and get a discount on their insurance.  But the same result is possible through the private sector, stimulating our economy while reducing tax payers' burden." 

3.  A representative of this Program testified against the repeal of the helmet law in the last legislative session The justification to oppose the repeal was on the grounds that the Bill called for mandatory training of new riders and this mandate would have increased the waiting list for those wanting to take the course.  With half a million dollars in the budget at that time, shouldn’t the program have found a means to recruit more educators and accommodate that predicted influx?

4.  The Program is undermining motorcycle tourism in the State of Nevada.   Public highway messages created by the Board and displayed during last year's Street Vibrations in Reno, were a topic of discussion at a recent Board meeting.  A Northern Nevada motorcyclist described the verbiage of the signs as, "tourist unfriendly."  In response, a Board member said, "They're not designed to be friendly, they're supposed to make a point." This type of arrogance is telling.  Renegade states, "In retail, odds are that for every person that complains to a manager there are 10 that don't.  And those 10 spread the word to 10 more.  Can we afford 100 hotel rooms to go empty in this economy?”  A reliable source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that Arizona motorcyclists are holding their own event in Arizona concurrently with Las Vegas BikeFest as a means to protest the unfriendly law enforcement climate toward motorcyclists in Nevada.

5.  The program is an extra layer of bureaucracy to stonewall motorcyclists seeking justice for violations of citizens' rights.  In an effort to be law abiding and not be harassed by law enforcers for perceived helmet violations, B.O.L.T.'s David Stilwell, has for one year, consistently asked local law enforcement agencies, "What constitutes a legal helmet?"  Agency responses are, "Ask the Safety Board."  When he asks the Board, he is told to ask the law enforcement agencies, or the Attorney General, or the legislators.  Mr. Stilwell responds, "It's not the legislators or the Attorney General who pull us over.  It's the law enforcers, and they keep passing the buck."

Is our tax money being squandered by this motorcycle safety bureaucracy?

(The original article identified motorcycle friendly public official candidates that were endorsed by ABATE of Southern Nevada.)

Note:  See the angry letter to the editor about this report:  http://tigerlilsblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/angry-reader-feedback-to-motorcycle.html

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