Somewhere in Colorado

Battle Escalates Against Riders’ Freedom of Choice (Part 2)

December 2007

Written by Dave Christy, Bikers’ Rights Advocate, Colorado

In Part 1 of this commentary, I stated the case for motorcyclists’ preservation of Freedom of Choice as opposed to the relentless governmental and regulatory pressure to “conform” motorcyclists to the failed paradigm of passive safety protection:

A very large and distinct part of the agenda of governmental and institutional highway safety agencies and organizations, as well as some of that of the insurance and medical fields, is to influence public opinion via press releases and use of a willing news media (in all its forms) to broadly disseminate the information. As concerns motorcyclists, we could also term it as misinformation, due to exemption of other relative data. Most always containing statistical figures relating to motorcycling fatalities, and possibly accident injury numbers, this is designed to elicit “shock value” and mortification from the public and action from legislators. It is also a slick marketing and sales job put forth to gullible people, who have little depth of insight and knowledge at it relates in the context of the whole:

By inference, the message is “You motorcycle riders – when you don’t wear a helmet and you get hurt – are costing the public money. And when you get killed, it’s because you weren’t wearing a helmet!”

Think about it — when the news media reports a motorcycling fatality, and if the deceased “wasn’t wearing a helmet” they’re quite likely to tell their reading/listening audience exactly that. The inference is absorbed due to human tendency to believe what you read and hear, particularly if it is repeated with enough incessant fervor, until it manifests itself into the public and legislative psyche so as to be ultimately perceived as fact. “My insurance dollars are paying for this!” says the Non-Rider, “And so are my tax dollars! They (motorcyclists) are getting into my pocket! Something must be done!” And then, by extension and (flawed) derivative thinking, we motorcyclists are somehow viewed as non-payers into the health care and insurance systems. Thusly, the Social/Public Burden Theory is seeded and born. The purveyors of this logic know exactly what they are doing. YOU, as a motorcyclist, are far too often considered a public liability.

“Propaganda is persuading people to make up their minds while withholding some of the facts from them.”–Harold Evans

For our purposes, the Social Burden Theory is an insidious, reprehensible and disgusting tactic used to discriminate against motorcyclists and their freedom-of-choice and autonomy by portraying motorcyclists as a money drain. Worse yet, it creates cultural division among the American population by targeting a particular minority segment of the road-using transport mix by assigning unfounded blame; a segment freely engaged in a legal activity. Worsening further still, we have motorcyclists within our ranks beginning to bicker among themselves and pointing fingers at each other because some have come to believe the ‘theory.’ I’m going to relate truth and logic to you, which I hope you’ll retain and use to refute and debunk arguments about motorcyclists as ‘social burden’ in the face of our adversaries in this matter.

“[This] is a world in which facts always bow to feelings. What matters is not so much that you do good, but that you feel virtuous, or perhaps more to the point, are seen to be virtuous.”–Mona Charen

There is an argument I’d like to address before delving into social burden, and that is the rationale often proffered in the helmet debates, usually by a motorist writing a letter to a newspaper. It goes like this: “If I have to wear a seat belt, you should have to wear a helmet.” Well, here’s what I know and my reply: 1) A seat belt is a restraint device that’s integrated in the build of your vehicle; a helmet is not an integral part of a motorcycle, nor can it be made so. (I suppose a legislature could pass a law declaring it so, but then the law would be a lie, wouldn’t it?) 2) Maybe you “have to wear a seat belt” because you didn’t come out and publicly oppose this legislative intrusion on your body, yes? Sounds like sour grapes to me…

Belts and helmets–they’re available if you want to use them–you decide.

Public Medical money: The Social Burden Theory translates into money–bottom line, money gets attention. It’s a powerful lobbying weapon used to influence legislative policy, to include helmet decisions. The states (legislatures) have to “manage” public medical care (or Medicaid and Medicare) dollar expenditures. These public dollars (yours, mine, and ours–since the government has no money of its’ own) also fund many medical programs outside of trauma care. Some legislators believe, or are prodded into believing, that motorcyclists, when injured, lack private sector insurance of scale so as to be a considerable drain of Medicare and Medicaid dollars. Is it the truth? Two words for the proponents of this belief: PROVE IT! Request they produce the figures (if they’re even available) of motorcycling injury medical dollar expenditures, and placed in the context of all public dollars expended on medical care, the number of people cared for, and the potential number dependent on that public care. In comparison, it’s likely miniscule.

Using my home state as an example, our Colorado government estimates (probably conservatively) we have almost 800,000 medically uninsured, or about 17% of the population. This figure would probably include some people who ride motorcycles. At any given time, any of these folks are dependent on publicly-funded medical care, for any reason under the sun. Shall we paint all these folks with the brush of ‘Social Burden?’ Using the logic, after all, what’s the difference between “us” and “them?”

Private-sector insurance–vehicles: Insurance companies sell us insurance to protect from losses that can occur to some members (policyholders) in the risk pool. Motorcyclists are placed into motorcycling risk pools to spread the cost of losses. These are separate from automobile policies. The policies generally incorporate Comprehensive, Collision and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist protection with the option of tiered Medical Payments Coverage for additional premium. As motorcyclists, we participate particularly well in these risk pools, generally higher than motorist’s average in theirs. In my home state, liability insurance is a mandatory requirement. Most (if not all) states have the same requirement. I should also state that in spite of the laws, approximately 40% of Colorado drivers lack automobile insurance. I suspect the figure is paralleled in many other states. Is this not also a social burden? If you are injured as a result of someone else’s actions, their liability insurance is to pay for your medical as well as property loss. If they are uninsured or underinsured, the UI/UIM portion of your policy “kicks in” to help make up the cost differential. If you cause an accident, your liability insurance pays for the other party’s loss and medical.

Private-sector insurance–health: Studies have shown that motorcyclists obtain and maintain private sector health insurance policies at rate equal or better than the public at-large. Your medical/health insurance plans might be employer-sponsored where your employer picks up some of the premium cost and you pay the rest through payroll deduction. Or perhaps you buy health insurance on your own. Either way, as a participant in a health and medical care plan you are paying in to protect yourself from high personal financial losses in the event of major medical expenses that can be due to any number of factors–the same as anyone else. One of the troubling concerns of our time is people unable to obtain affordable health insurance. It is becoming more cost-prohibitive all the time and affects the entire general population. The federal government says approximately 75 million Americans have no private health insurance. Health care costs continue to spiral out of control and citizens have little or no control over those prices.

The Medical Lobby: Medical field professionals often lobby and testify in hearings as to the cost of treating motorcycling-related injury, and they get legislators’ attention. But wait a minute! Isn’t health insurance supposed to pay for the unforeseen? And if medical procedures and treatments cost so much, who establishes the prices? The irony here is that it is the medical field itself, which these testifiers and lobbyists are a part of.

They will also describe the horrific nature of some injuries, for effect and to gain sympathy and empathy to leverage their position. None of the trauma is unknown to the motorcycling community. Motorcyclists are very aware of the realities of the road. We should always state our truth that no one cares more about motorcycling safety than motorcyclists themselves, and we continue to improve ourselves through self-empowerment.

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”–Ernest Benn

The medical field accomplishes wonderful things, and we all have some faith and reliance on their people. Their spokespersons are entitled to their say in testimonies and advice. However, they are not experts in our field. It is also a known fact that over 100,000 people die annually due to “medical mistakes,” more than 20 times the number of annual motorcycling fatalities. That’s about 280 average everyday, folks. I think no one should say our ‘house’ is dirty when their own needs a further effort and good cleaning. How is it that a dead motorcyclist without a helmet makes the news, but a hospital patient dead from infection or the wrong meds doesn’t?

We All Pay for Everything, Everyday: You’re a taxpayer. Do you work? What did you buy today? Groceries, fuel, household goods? Pay the light, heating, and phone bill? Then you paid tax on every item, including your labor (paycheck) income. Government has no money of its own–it gets it from you in the form of taxes, fees, and surcharges. Our elected officials in government establish the tax levies and create all the public programs that rely on your money and my money for funding. None of us gets to “opt out” of these built-in payment strategies. For anyone to suggest that motorcyclists (who are also regular people) don’t pay, is hallucinating…

“People are beginning to realize that the apparatus of government is costly. But what they do not know is that the burden falls inevitably on them.– Frederic Bastiat

Social/Public Burden as a Slippery Slope: We can go downhill in our society in a hurry if we adopt the logic of the “I’m paying for you” crowd. Let’s list just a few things that can also be considered as Social Burden: Income tax, sales tax, property tax, fuel tax, inheritance tax, any tax, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, insurance premiums, the Welfare state and all its’ assistance programs and derivatives, the War in Iraq, the salaries and retirement pensions of bureaucrats and legislators whose politics I don’t care for, etc., etc… The list is almost endless. Most people I know aren’t exactly pleased with their forced monetary contribution load in all of its forms, but the fact is, we all contribute and have some dependence on each other–that’s the system.

The worst aspect of government is to pass law that serves an agenda and steals liberties at the same time:

Overbearing, intrusive, and big government is the biggest Social Burden of all.

Written by Dave Christy (email: )


Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!