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The Fallacy of the Dangers of Motorcycles and the Public Burden Theory

Called the “public burden theory, motorcyclists have suffered from the public’s mistaken belief since the 1980s that bikers cause the public disproportionate financial strain than other road users. The main idea behind the theory says motorcyclists place more demand on public funds than other road users since they are, supposedly, uninsured or underinsured, take undue risks while riding the nation’s roads, causing accidents that soak up public money.

The source of this myth can be traced to a study conducted in Seattle, which found that 63.4 percent of motorcyclists relied on public funds for their medical care following a motorcycle accident.

The researchers of the Seattle study looked at data from the Harborview Medical Center, one of Seattle’s major trauma hospitals. Though the researchers did not fudge the numbers-63.4 percent of motorcyclists did indeed need public assistance for medical bills-the researchers failed to disclose that 67 percent of all of Harborview’s patients required public funds to pay their bills.

The fact that motorcyclists as a group are actually less likely than the general public to require public funds for trauma care has been buried under the volume of calls for reforms, restrictions and regulations to protect motorcyclists from the risks inherent in their sport, and thus the public from funding the consequences of their adventures. A recent example of such regulation is the plethora of helmet laws cropping up across the country.

Fortunately, a more recent study by the University of North Carolina helps refute the claim that motorcyclists place more of a burden on the public than other road users. This study found that 49.5 percent of all injured bikers are covered by a sufficient amount of health insurance, compared to 50.4 percent of other road trauma victims. The difference between the two is nearly imperceptible. The study also found that motorcyclists typically pay higher insurance premiums and relied less on public programs like Medicare or Medicaid than other groups. Additionally, researchers discovered that the average treatment for motorcycle trauma costs less than treatments for other road traumas.

What’s more, motorcycle trauma treatments only account for one thousandth of a percent of the nation’s total health care costs. Medicare, on the other hand, represented over 20 percent of total health care spending in 2009, totaling a whopping $502.3 billion of the $2.5 trillion spent on health care.

Some Texas auto accident attorneys say one thing is certain, auto accidents, whether caused by motorcycles, SUV’s, trucks or other types of vehicles, are all becoming increasingly hazardous and costly as the public’s use of mobile devices rise.