By ED VOGEL
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
CARSON CITY -- Until she acquired a BlackBerry wireless device for her political campaign last summer, Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, did not realize how unsafe trying to drive while typing text messages could be.
"Everyone does it who has a BlackBerry," she said. "You know in the back of your mind that it is unsafe, but the temptation is there."
Breeden is preparing a bill to outlaw the use of BlackBerry and other text-messaging devices by drivers who are operating motor vehicles.
Seven states already have such laws. Nine others prohibit text messaging by younger drivers.
"It's a no-brainer," Breeden said. "It's a safety issue."
She hopes during hearings on her bill that the discussion will lead to a debate on the safety of cell phones by drivers.
"Cell phones are distracting, too," she said.
Hers is one of several driving-related bills that the Legislature announced is being prepared for the 2009 session that begins Feb. 2.
Another proposal is the perennial bill to repeal the state's 1971 law that requires motorcyclists and their passengers to wear helmets.
"It is a freedom of choice issue," said Assemblyman Don Gustavson, who has failed in three previous attempts to repeal the helmet law.
Gustavson, R-Sparks, said new statistics show that the repeal of the helmet law in Florida and other states has not led to an increase in motorcycle fatalities.
Under his bill, motorcyclists age 21 and over with one-year of experience would not have to wear helmets.
He also proposes a seven-year sunset provision during which the state would monitor the number of motorcycle fatalities.
If the death rate increases, then Gustavson said the helmet law would be implemented again.
Gustavson said he does not have a motorcycle, other than a dirt bike that he has not ridden in years. He just believes government should not impose regulations that intrude into peoples' personal freedom.
Twenty states, including Nevada and California, have laws requiring motorcyclists of any age to wear helmets.
In 1975, 47 states had helmet laws.
Repealing the helmet law is something the state government will fight, according to John Johansen, impaired driving safety coordinator for the state Office of Traffic Safety.
Johansen said about 50 people are killed every year in Nevada in accidents involving motorcycles.
He said Gustavson is flat wrong if he believes the repeal of helmet laws has led to fewer deaths.
"Deaths go up, way up," Johansen said.
Florida repealed its helmet law in 2000 and has recorded a steady climb in fatalities since. Officials in Florida estimated that 1,784 motorcyclists' lives were saved last year because they wore helmets, even though it's not required.
(NOTE: charts a few posts down demonstrate that MC fatalities have stayed equal to the rise in MC registrations. I challange whatever Florida Official arrived at the conclusion that 1'784 motorcyclists lives were saved last year by helmet use to produce the research that demonstrates that challenge)
To those who think riding helmetless is an issue of personal freedom, Johansen advises them to visit the trauma center at University Medical Center and ask about brain injuries suffered by motorcyclists, particularly those who rode without helmets.
Costs of treating a brain injury average $2 million, according to testimony at the 2007 Legislature, when only one of 20 people spoke in favor of repealing the helmet law.
Unlike the helmet law, Johansen said the Office of Traffic Safety may not take a position on Breeden's bill to outlaw text messaging by drivers, or legislation to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones.
He said about 30 percent of the fatal accidents in Nevada are caused by distracted drivers.
It is not just talking on cell phones or text messaging that distracts drivers, according to Johansen. They are also distracted when they drink coffee, change the radio station, put in CDs, talk to passengers and "eat Big Macs and fries."
"Fast-food restaurants have drive-through windows because people like to eat in their cars," he said. "Driving is really a full-time thing. You don't need divided attention. But I don't think cell phones should be the poster child of distracted driving. I have seen people read books and newspapers while driving."
On the other hand, Johansen said, it's just common sense that people should not text message while driving a car.
"But where does common sense end and the law begin?" he asked.
NOTE: About at the point where you differentiate between the dangers of riding without a helmet and not addressing cell phone use MR. Johnson. And might I had you freaking bag of egotistical, narcissistic, hypocritical dung who passes himself off as a guardian of the public safety by by substituting personal opinion for sound science. THere is a God dude. You ain't it!
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.Add to Technorati Favorites