Motorcycles And Taxpayers: The Costs Of Not Wearing A Helmet

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — To wear a helmet, or not to wear a helmet? That’s a question relevant to both motorcyclists and taxpayers.

New research shows the decision not to wear a helmet affects more than just the motorcyclist. Taxpayers pay for 29 percent of recovering crash victim’s hospital bills, which amounts to $60 million a year.

WCCO-TV broke down the numbers and spoke with one St. Francis family who has had to overcome both the personal and financial cost of a motorcycle crash.

Sara Campbell got the knock on the door that no one wants to get.

“He told me that Brad had been in a motorcycle accident and was being airlifted to North,” Sara Campbell said.

Brad Campbell was not wearing his helmet when he was hit while traveling on a 30 mph road in St. Francis. He spent seven weeks in the hospital.

Sara Campbell is now the sole breadwinner in the family. She called the situation a role reversal.

Doctors told Brad Campbell he’ll likely never work again.

“There’s certain days where I can’t even remember how old I am,” he said. “I can’t remember my kids birthdays some days.”

Financial toll is something the Campbells can speak to.

“It was a struggle,” Sara Campbell said. “We almost lost our house. The helicopter ride was almost $10,000, the first 18 days in the ICU was $380,000.”

Only 16 percent of motorcycle accidents involve severe brain trauma, but they account for more than half the money spent to treat motorcycle accident victims.

Elisabeth Seburg, a research author and University of Minnesota graduate student, took a look at the costs associated with motorcycle crashes.

“These resulted in about $266 million in short term hospital charges,” she said.

Seburg recently added up the cost to taxpayers when a motorcyclist gets hurt. She says she wants to see a new law that gives motorcyclists insurance similar to that of other motorists.

“So, it’s simply requiring that they have the same vehicle insurance as all other Minnesota drivers,” Seburg said.

Motorcyclists who choose to ride without a helmet would have to purchase persona injury insurance.

“They still have the right to decide if they would like to wear a helmet or not, it just shifts the responsibility for the financial implications of the decision to the rider than to the taxpayer,” Seburg said.

It’s a price the Campbells say you can’t attach a premium.

“I’m just thankful to be alive,” Brad Campbell said.

He no longer rides his motorcycle. He says he will never ride it again.

The Campbells also say they fully support the proposed bill.

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