Thursday, April 14, 2011 | 9:43 p.m.
CARSON CITY — A bill allowing adults to ride motorcycles without a helmet was approved by a state Senate committee Thursday, while a tougher seat belt law was turned back.
The seat belt bill would allow police to stop a motorist and issue a citation solely for not wearing a seat belt. The present law allows officers to issue a citation only if the driver is stopped for another traffic infraction.
The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony earlier that 93 percent of Nevadans already buckle up.
Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, who opposed the bill, SB 235, said Nevadans use safety belts at a higher rate than neighboring states.
Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, in arguing for the bill, said the buckle-up rate is only 30 percent at night. The 93 percent figure cited is falsified to get federal funds, he charged.
He said opponents of the bill argue not wearing a seat belt is a personal choice, but everyone ends up paying to treat those injured because they aren’t buckled up.
Voting against the bill were Halseth, Dean Rhoads, R-Elko, Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, and John Lee, D-North Las Vegas.
The helmet bill, SB 177, removes the helmet requirement for motorcycle drivers and passengers if they are at least 21 years old and the driver has held a license for a year or more and completed a safety course.
Drivers and passengers of three-wheelers and mopeds would also be free of the helmet law if they complete the same requirements.
A motorcyclist who received his license before July 1, would not be required to take a safety course.
Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, said he would prefer to see the age raised to 25 and the cyclist would have five years experience.
Halseth said whether to wear a helmet should be a personal choice. She said figures from University Medical Center show riders injured while not wearing a helmet actually cost less to treat than those hurt while wearing helmets.
Schneider, however, said everyone bears the cost.
“This is costing society millions of dollars. No way does this benefit the state of Nevada,” he said.
Manendo, Schneider and committee Chairwoman Shirley Breeden, D-Las Vegas, voted against the bill.