'It's not fair to us to have to pay!'; Is it time AZ got a 'Stupid Hiker Law'?
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED May. 6, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - They go hiking without water.
They wear sandals to Sabino Canyon.
And when the worst happens, it's the taxpayers who pony up the dough.
Here in Arizona, we have a 'Stupid Motorist Law'. It says, if you bypass a barrier and floor it into a flooded wash, you have to pay for part of your rescue.
Now some are asking, is it time to hold hikers to that same 'stupid' standard?
We've seen death-defying airlifts and raging river crossings.
"The water was so heavy, we couldn't get through," explained one hiker, after being trapped in Bear Canyon earlier this year.
And of course, there are the searches, lasting for hours, days.
"I've never seen anything like this!" said another.
But here in Tucson, we see it plenty.
They're the ones happily hopping up a 5 mile trail with a darling little water bottle.
Or they're the ones heading out at dusk alone.
Let's not forget those, seen bravely tackling tough terrain in their favorite new sandals.
And when "no need to prepare" hikers meet Mother Nature's wrath, it adds up.
"A lot of them will say, you know, 'I didn't think it was going to be this tough, or I thought I had enough water,'" explained Sgt. George Economidis of the Pima County Sheriff's Dept.
Recently in Catalina State Park, one overnight rescue for one missing hiker lasted 13 hours.
Let's see, that's eight deputies and, of course, one six hour helicopter ride .
The grand total? $3,496.11.
And you paid for it!
"They're not going to receive the bill for their rescue," said Economidis.
9OYS hit the streets to asked Tucsonans how they feel about forking over the funds.
One woman said, "They've got to be rescued, but it's not really fair to us to have to pay for it."
But we do!
Here in Arizona, each county comes up with the cash, and if they run out, the state has another $200,000 to pitch in.
Some years, it's enough.
But 2 years ago, Governor Jan Brewer temporarily cut the funds, leaving counties to rescue dehydrated hikers on their own dime.
Some lawmakers say it's time to call stupid, stupid.
"You need to have clear signs educating people on the need to have water and supplies at the trailheads, but then once you have those clear signs, if someone goes hiking without water and needs to be rescued, they need to reimburse the county," said State Representative Ethan Orr (R-Tucson).
Other states are way ahead of him.
"We'll have to collect some money," said State Representative Gene Chandler (R-NH).
In new hampshire, they're working on a bill, modeled after one in Colorado, to charge unprepared hikers found wandering in their White Mountains, for their rescues.
And the get this!
The more wreckless you are, the more you pay.
There's even, in essence, a 'Get Out of the Woods Free' card.
Hikers can buy it for $15, and if the worst happens, no charge.
"Okay, that sounds fun," said one Tucson hiker. "Reminds you of Monopoly."
"$15 to get out of the woods? Definitely a bargain," said another.
"Everyone realizes this is a problem that has to be dealt with," said Chandler.
But some say, 'Not so fast!"
We rescue stupid homeowners who drop cigarettes and burn their houses down.
We rescue stupid drivers who crash while chatting on the phone.
Why make hikers pay?
"I don't think you can expect them to prepare for everything," said one Tucson woman.
"What we don't want to get is into a situation where people are afraid to call for help because they're afraid of receiving a bill," said Sgt. Economidis.
Others say the key is looking at how hard the hiker tries to stay out of trouble.
Meaning, if they come prepared with water, proper clothes and shoes, and other supplies, they're home-free.
But go for hike in a canyon like you're on vacation in the Carribbean? Then, the rescue's on you!
State Rep. Orr says right now, there are no solid plans to start charging wreckless hikers for their rescues in Arizona, but he plans to start the conversation in Phoenix.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire State Rep. Chandler says, it's looking more and more like their 'stupid hiker law' will be on the books by summer of 2014.