A form letter is provided below which you may copy, paste and adapt to send by e-mail to your Governor and state legislators. A list of e-mail addresses is provided on the "State Government E-Addresses" page. To the extent that you can take the time to make your letter personal, Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers considers that it might add persuasive value. For example, if you have been in a motorcycle accident you are encouraged to describe the accident in the initial paragraph, particularly if it was an accident of the types which can be attributed to auto driver inattention or ignorance of motorcycle accident avoidance strategies. Examples of auto driver inattention would include accidents where the auto driver pulled out from a side street or turned left into your right of way. These are the most common motorcycle accident scenarios, and you can point out that you believe, if you do, that the auto driver didn't see you notwithstanding that you were plainly within his or her visual field. If you have had an accident in which a car hit you while changing lanes, you might describe the accident and say that in your opinion the accident happened because the auto driver, and auto drivers in general don't realize that their rear view mirrors have holes in them, and hence that they need to turn their heads to look into their rear view mirror blind spots before changing lanes. If you were hit from behind you might point out that you believe that the car was following too close and that it is your conclusion that most auto drivers don't realize that motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars in emergency situations, and that they need to provide greater space between their automobile and a motorcycle than they would if following a car. If you haven't been in a motorcycle accident, count yourself as one of the lucky ones. If you have a friend who was in an accident, you might tell his story, or send the form "as is" inserting the name of the Governor or Legislator as you work through the list of your state representatives, and remember also to insert your name and address at the bottom of the form.
Form Letter to Adapt and Send to Your Governor and State Legislators
Dear Honorable [Insert Name of Your Governor or State Legislator],
I am writing to you because I am a citizen of [Insert Your State], I ride a motorcycle, and I am concerned that our state is not doing what it can and what it should do for the safety of motorcyclists.
There is a problem, there is a solution, and you have it in you power to provide the solution.
The problem is that the vast majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are caused solely by the inattention and negligence of auto drivers, without any negligence on the part of the motorcyclist. This fact and the specific root causes of auto driver negligence have been identified in a number of studies beginning with the landmark University of Southern California study by Harry Hurt, funded by the National Highway Safety Administration.
Two-thirds the motorcycle accidents caused by auto drivers are intersection accidents in which the car driver pulls out from a side street or turns left in front of the motorcyclist violating his right of way. Very commonly the auto driver will state that he didn't “see” the motorcycle. This is not a problem associated with the size of the motorcycle, its "conspicuity" or “visibility.” Motorcycles are just as visible as cars at the distance at which a car might pose a threat entering an intersection into the motorcyclist's right of way. The problem is that auto drivers have an "attention" deficit when it comes to motorcycles. The phenomenon is described as "inattentional blindness." Motorcycles are a legitimate means of transportation in the state and therefore the problem must be seen as a failure of present auto driver education programs to train auto drivers to "consciously attend" to motorcyclists.
Auto drivers also fail to understand that their rear view mirrors have holes in them large enough to obscure a motorcycle, and that to avoid motorcycle accidents they must turn their heads to look into their blind spots before changing lanes. Auto drivers also fail to understand that motorcycles generally stop more quickly than do cars and so they must leave a greater number of car lengths distance between the vehicles when following a motorcycle.
It is plain that the major contributor to multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents is that auto drivers fail understand motorcycle safety issues, and have not been educated on motorcycle accident avoidance strategies.
The first and most important solution is mandatory auto driver education. The state has it within its power to effectively mandate motorcycle safety education simply by providing the relevant information in the auto driver license preparation booklets and by including questions on motorcycle safety and motorcycle accident avoidance strategies in the auto driver license written tests. This is such an important issue that I would urge that drivers be denied licenses to operate automobiles if they fail to demonstrate competent knowledge of motorcycle safety by answering all motorcycle safety and motorcycle accident avoidance strategy questions correctly. Because it is essential to reach all auto drivers, the state should institute a policy that all auto drivers seeking to renew their drivers licenses must take and pass the written test. Furthermore all state sponsored, mandated or certified driver education program curricula should include full and complete lessons on all aspects of motorcyclist safety and the motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which auto drivers must employ for the safety of motorcyclists. This would include driver education courses in high schools, certified private driver education courses, in the driver education courses which must be taken to avoid the recordation of traffic violations on the offender's public record, in the programs which DUI offenders must take along with all other court ordered driver education courses.
The state should also make it a priority to create and appropriately fund year long informational campaigns stressing in particular "motorcycle awareness," and the motorcycle accident avoidance strategies essential for the motorcyclist's protection.
It is also important to enact reasonably severe penalty legislation for right of way violations which result in injury to a motorcyclist. The legislation should provide either mandatory 2 year driver license suspensions or mandatory 30 day jail terms for any auto driver who causes a motorcycle accident resulting from the auto driver's failure to respect the motorcyclist's right of way and in which the motorcyclist suffers injury. This penalty legislation should be combined with an appropriately funded public informational campaign advising the public of the new law, its specificity to motorcyclist right of way violations, and the severity of the penalty. This is essential to enhance the "relevancy" of motorcyclists for the population of auto drivers who otherwise would not "see" them.
Finally, it is essential to everyone's safety to curtail the use of cell phones while driving. Both the published epidemiological studies and controlled experimental studies demonstrate that auto drivers who use cell phones while driving are fully as driving impaired as DUI level drunk drivers. Indeed, the results indicate that the cell phone impaired are more likely to cause accidents than DUI drunk drivers. This should be sufficient for the state to want to prohibit or even criminalize the use of cell phones while driving. Indeed, there can be no justification for failing to do so when the state on identical grounds has criminalized DUI level drunk driving. But there is also evidence that suggests that the cell phone impaired may be selectively even more dangerous to motorcyclists. One reason for this is that the mechanism of cell phone driving impairment is the diversion of the auto driver's conscious "attention" to the cognitive give and take of the conversation which involves another "pathway" than used for driving perception. Given that auto drivers suffer a preexisting "attention deficit" specific to motorcyclists, it is likely that the combination is additive or multiplicative. This would also explain the steep rise in motorcycle accidents and fatalities over the past several years, coinciding with a similar rise in the use of cell telephones by auto drivers.
There are additional reasons for outlawing cell phone use while driving. One is that cell phone use contributes to slowing traffic flow generally and contributes increasingly to traffic congestion in our cities. The reason for this is that it takes 19 percent more time for the cell phone user to regain flow of traffic speed following a breaking episode. Currently 8 percent of all auto drivers on our American streets and highways are actively in cell telephone conversations. With 8 percent of all auto drivers taking 19 percent more time to return to the pace of traffic following each braking episode the effect on our highway transportation systems is obvious. There is no societal benefit to cell phone use while driving as any positive economic contribution occasioned by the productive or semi-productive use of cell phones while commuting is offset by the increased length of the commute for all drivers.<br><br>
Additionally, it is established cell phone impairment does not become less with "practice" or experience.<br><br>
The 8 percent of auto drivers using cell phones while driving are a danger at least equivalent to 8 percent of motorists driving drunk, and they are interfering with traffic flow and contributing to city traffic congestion. The practice must be outlawed, and outlawed now, for the benefit of motorcyclists, other auto drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.
The state politicians who support these effort to make our streets safer for motorcyclists will win the hearts and votes of all motorcyclists because this is a real and substantial concern for all of us. It is also the right thing to do. Motorcycle safety is a public health concern. Motorcycle accidents are much more likely to result in serious injury than auto accidents. Furthermore, it is a state fiscal concern because all too often the auto driver who causes the accident will be woefully underinsured to pay for the motorcyclist's immediate and long term medical expense and care, and will almost universally refuse to accept his moral responsibility to pay for the motorcyclist's medical expenses. When this happens the substantial cost of the medical expense must often be borne by the state.
It would cost little to update the auto driver education booklets and add the additional questions to the tests. Little indeed compared to the cost of the lives which could be saved. The cost of updating the booklets and tests would be paid for many times over by the savings the state would achieve by avoiding the cost of medical care and lifetime nursing care for even one seriously injured motorcyclist saved by the education. Motorcycle specific right of way violation penalty laws require only the enactment of the legislation. Motorcycle awareness programs and public informational campaigns are within the state's existing public relations capacity, although these should be well funded to be fully effective.
I appeal to you for your consideration of this issue, and urge you to take a stand on our behalf.
Very truly yours,
Insert Your Name
Provide Your Address