The Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers Position Paper Urging That The 9/12-13/2006 NTSB "Motorcycle Safety" Forum Agenda is a Farce; Our Call to Bikers to Object and Move NTSB to Change Its Agenda; And then Our Invitation to All Bikers to Join in Our M-A-D-D Counter-Agenda Debate On "Bruce and Ray's Biker Forum" During the NTSB Forum WebCast.
Co-Moderator, "Bruce and Ray's Biker Forum," at LDRLongDistanceRiders
I see hope in the eyes and words of motorcyclists across our country that just maybe, for once, something positive might come out of the September 12-13, 2006 NTSB "Public Forum on Motorcycle Safety." There might be some reason for hope, just because it will be NTSB for the first time, rather than NHTSA, sponsoring the Forum. But after reviewing the Forum agenda, I am filled with nothing but disappointment and foreboding.
Below I will set forth my specific criticisms of the NTSB Agenda. They form the basis for our Objection to the NTSB Motorcycle Safety Agenda, filed with the NTSB, and our Motion to Substitute our Counter-Agenda, which we believe covers accurately the real motorcycle safety issues, and the real solutions to the dangers we face riding on our American highways. This Counter-Agenda we hope would form the basis for broader debate on "Bruce and Ray's Biker Forum" at LDRLongDistanceRiders.com and at other locations on the Internet or in meetings at which the NTSB Forum will be discussed or as the NTSB Forum debate is broadcast.
CRITICISM OF NTSB FORUM AGENDA
Historically NHTSA and the states have focused so myopically on "what bikers wear," meaning helmets and florescent multicolored clown suits, that we have come to expect nothing productive from them to stem the tide of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents, which, obvious to everyone but them, is the precipitating factor not just for motorcyclist head injuries and fatalities but for the full panoply of motorcyclist injury we sustain. As we've known for more than a quarter of a century two-thirds of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents result from auto driver inattention and negligence; two-thirds of that number, or 50 percent of the total result from intersection accidents in which the auto driver, "inattentive to the motorcyclist," has turned left or entered the intersection into the motorcyclist's right of way. Hurt, 1981.
Using fictions like "lack of conspicuity" NHTSA has studiously avoided doing anything productive to reduce the real and substantial contributors to this obscene disproportionate incidence of motorcycle accidents, principally resulting from auto driver inattention. NHTSA has traditionally preferred to blame auto driver inattention on the size of the motorcycle and failure of motorcyclists to dress up like Ronald MacDonald. Heaven forbid that these political bureaucrats, might have instead acknowledged the truth, that it is the auto driver's "eyes," meaning the auto driver's internal values which lead them not to "see" motorcyclists, that is the problem. Heaven forbid that these bureaucrats, so dependent upon the approval of their superiors, might have bit the bullet and acknowledged that if we are to reduce the incidence of motorcycle accidents we will have to retrain auto drivers to "consciously attend" to motorcyclists appearing in their visual field. Heaven forbid that NHTSA, in the past 25 years, should have once told the truth, that it is the auto driver whose driving behavior must be changed if we are to reduce this obscene incidence of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
So we learn that NTSB will conduct a "Public Forum on Motorcycle Safety" and our hearts jump. Could it be possible that NTSB will actually take an honest look at the real motorcycle safety issues, acknowledge that the government's historical, political, paternalistic policies have been a "motorcycle safety" failure, openly consider the abundant scientific evidence demonstrating accurately the true sources of danger we face as motorcyclists, and then come out with a new set of priorities actually calculated for once to reduce the dangers we face as bikers?
No. I'm sorry, my friends, but that is not what they are about; and this is obvious just from a quick glance at the agenda, and becomes more obvious, and indeed ominous when we consider the opening remarks of the Forum Chairman.
Immediately below I've reprinted the NTSB Agenda. Immediately following that I will set forth why it is that I am disappointed and feel only foreboding at what may result from this "Forum."
Below that I will provide my own "Agenda" for discussion at this "Public Forum" and by this "Open Letter" I will also move that the NTSB Agenda be Scrapped, and that our proposed agenda be adopted in its stead.
First, the NTSB's Agenda for its "motorcycle safety" Forum.
National Transportation Safety Board Agenda for Public Forum on Motorcycle Safety
September 12, 2006
8:00am - 8:30am Opening Remarks by Deborah A.P. Heraman, Forum Chairman
8:30am-10:30am Panel Trends and Safety Statistics
10:30am-10:45am Morning Break
10:45am-11:45am Panel: Vehicle Design
1:15pm-2:30pm Panel: Vehicle Design (continued)
2:30pm-2:45pm Afternoon Break
2:45pm-5:00pm Panel: Rider Protective Equipment
September 13, 2006
8:00am-10:00am Panel: Training and Licensing
10:00am-10:15am Morning Break
10:15am-12:00pm Panel: Public Education/Awreness
1:15pm-3:00pm Panel: Rider Impairment
3:00pm-3:15pm Afternoon Break
3:15pm-4:45pm Panel: Future Directions
4:45pm-5:00pm Closing Remarks
Please note that the only issue up for discussion in the 2 day NTSB Agenda which we consider potentially productive is the 1 hour and 45 minutes allotted on the 2nd day to the consideration of "Public Education/Awareness"; however, after reading Chairman Heraman's preliminary remarks we find out that these few minutes will be split between a discussion of motorcyclist education and auto driver awareness.
The principle topic for discussion, allotted twice as much time as any other topic, is "Vehicle Design." What in heavens name is that doing on this agenda at all, indeed, what in heavens name can they mean by "vehicle design" in the context what was promoted as a serious motorcyclist safety debate? Chairman Heraman provides the following insight: "First, motorcycle manufacturers will describe the latest in vehicle design developments aimed at reducing accidents, including motorcycle visibility, braking systems, and rider protection systems such as airbags." Airbags for motorcycles? I can't remember ever hearing anything so stupid; but this is the topic that NTSB has chosen to highlight. Indeed, this sounds to me more like a motorcycle manufacturer advertising opportunity to showcase the supposed "advantages" of their brands of bikes. I can only imagine that this is on the Agenda and allotted so much time only because of pre-Forum manufacturer lobbying and then demands for "equal opportunity" for the various manufacturers to "showcase" their new motorcycle designs.
Again, who knows what they mean by "rider protection systems such as airbags." That is the flakiest idea I've heard so far. But the big danger here is this notion of improving "motorcycle visibility." First, this may be the opening round in our government's efforts now to dictate "what our bikes should wear" following the 2 decades failure of their policies to dictate what bikers should wear. Will they suggest multicolored florescent neon paint schemes, huge headlights spaced four feet across to more resemble a car, and the same for the big widely spaced flashing neon red tail lights?
Unfortunately, the NTSB's inclusion of "motorcycle visibility" so prominently in its agenda is that it makes plain that NTSB is still "under the influence" of the myth of "lack of conspicuity," and has not yet come to an appreciation for the fact that it is the auto driver, not the motorcyclist, who is at fault for the auto driver's failure to "see" us. It is the auto driver, not the motorcyclist, who is responsible for the disproportionate incidence of ROW violations accounting for the greatest percentage of motorcyclist injuries.
The science demonstrates that it is "motorcycle specific auto driver inattentional blindness" which is the culprit, moderated, we believe, in largest part by IB factors "expectation" and "relevance."
"Lack of conspicuity" is just NHTSA's traditional excuse for not doing anything about this motorcycle specific auto driver attention deficit. And rather than abandoning this political convenience in favor of actually doing something now about motorcycle specific IB, the NTSB appears poised to enter into a new generation of clown suit lobbying, this time, apparently favoring dressing our bikes up in clown suits.
The only other subjects up for debate on the agenda are "trends and safety statistics," leading off the calendar of discussion subjects, followed by "rider protective equipment," "training and licensing," and "rider impairment," again all focused on the motorcyclist, ignoring the much more substantial contribution of the auto driver whose inattention and negligence are the most common precipitating factors for multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
As noted, starting off the agenda is "trends and safety statistics." For me it is ominous indeed that those who present these "statistics" will have it in their hands to define the "scientific truths" upon which the remaining discussion throughout this Forum will be based.
Nowhere are we given advance notice as to what "statistics" will be presented so that we can prepare to submit criticism of the study design, methodology, results, statistical analyses, or "expert" conclusions. Indeed, as the Forum has been set up, everyone except those who will be presenting these selected "statistics" will be sandbagged.
Given NHTSA's history of generating the most dishonest, politically motivated, comparisons of selected subsets of haphazardly collected accumulations of anecdotal reports, often without statistical analysis or with statistical analyses in violation of the scientific method, we object to this tactic of sandbagging. All that we are told is that "Researchers and experts from both the motorcycle industry and government will provide exposure data, crash data, crash causation studies, and different databases that cover motorcycle crashes." That the "experts" come from the "motorcycle industry" and "government" provides no assurance that the data will be anything but self serving or serving the same political cowardice that has precluded NHTSA from laying the blame on the auto driver for the past 25 years.
Since NTSB's jurisdiction has previously been to analyze aviation accidents and other big disaster transportation cases, it will also perform an analysis of three motorcycle accident cases. To the NTSB's credit -- maybe -- the three individual accidents identified for review, including the Ben Roethlisberger case, appear reasonably typical of the most common motorcycle accidents; and we trust that the participants will acknowledge, rather than attempt to obscure, that each of them resulted from auto driver inattention or negligence. There is one case in which the motorcyclist was alleged to have been speeding and weaving through traffic, but this was an intersection right of way violation case in which the auto driver turned left directly into the path of the motorcyclist. It will be interesting to see why NTSB has chosen to review this accident. Hopefully it will not be to obscure that auto driver right of way violations are the main motorcycle safety culprit or to obscure that it is the auto driver's motorcycle specific "attention deficit" which requires modification.
In the discussion of these cases the NTSB and panel participants will have the opportunity to recognize the various failures of auto driver attention and negligence which most commonly result in motorcycle accidents. They will have the opportunity to delve into the now abundant science explaining auto driver inattentional blindness and come up with the good and accurate solutions for modifying this motorcycle specific auto driver attention deficit. But as John Belushi used to say after describing in detail some idealistic cause and the elaborate merits of doing something hugely significant to accomplish it, "[Pause] Nahhh." My prediction is that they may throw a bone or two in our direction, perhaps acknowledging the contribution of auto driver fault, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts they will turn around and identify the more politically convenient "problem" as "lack of motorcycle conspicuity" and identify the politically more convenient "solution" in this or subsequent agenda subject debate that these accidents might have been avoided if the motorcyclist (or motorcycle) was wearing a florescent clown suit.
The subject of "rider protective gear" is the most ominous agenda subject matter, only because of NHTSA's long history or promoting paternalistic mandatory helmet laws as the centerpiece of its "motorcycle safety" "strategy." Consider that bikers might actually look forward to this panel discussion, indeed as a way for us learn about the options for each of us to provide for our own safety, IF our federal government had not for decades now so stridently sought to shove their manufacturer certified DOT compliant helmets down our throats. Helmets are at best one small Band-Aid on just one of the many deep wounds on every part of the broken body of national motorcyclist injury statistics. Helmets are effective, maybe, if any of us can believe anything our government tells us on this subject anymore, in reducing some percentage of the head injury subset of the broader landscape of motorcyclists injury resulting from motorcycle accidents. Again the problem is not defined by NHTSA's political obsession with misrepresenting "fatality" statistics. Rather, the real motorcycle safety problem is defined by the full panoply of motorcyclist injury resulting from motorcycle accidents, meaning paralysis, internal injury, catastrophic orthopedic injury, limb amputation, and every other category of injury motorcyclists sustain in accidents. Helmets are not the "solution" for the public health issue or State fiscal concerns with motorcyclist medical expense; rather, the solution is the reduction of this obscene disproportionate incidence of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents. So we say to our federal government, drop your paternalistic insistance on dictating to us what we should wear and we will be pleased to listen intently to any future, unbiased, accurate information on the utility of protective gear, in making our own adult choices, assuming that over time, by bringing honesty to the table instead of political prevarication, you can regain some element of credibility after so many years of squandering it.
Finally, the NTSB identifies "rider impairment" as an agenda subject, and that would be fine, if it was covered as just one part of the broader discussion of the multiple categories of rider and auto driver "impairment" which contribute to motorcycle accidents. But no, again, NTSB only wants to talk about rider impairment. This is ironic indeed because currently the single "impairment" factor which contributes most to motorcyclist injury and death is the literal epidemic of auto drivers DUI driving under the influence of cell phones. See, the Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers Scientific Review Article on DUI Driving Under the Influence of Cell Phones, located at: http://motorcyclists-against-dumb-drivers.com/cell-phones-and-dui-drunk-driving.html
The significance of driving under the influence of cell phones as the most common cause of motorcycle accidents has crept up on us with the most precipitous rise just in the past 6 years, and this epidemic continues to spread. Id. It is now established by the abundance of epidemiological and experimental literature that engaging in cell phone conversation while driving leads to driving impairment equal to that exhibited by the DUI drunk driver, and a 4 fold increased likelihood that the car driver will cause an accident. Id. That DUI level driving under the influence of cell phones is epidemic is demonstrated as follows: In the year 2000, four percent of American drivers on the road at any given daylight moment in time were actively involved in cell phone conversation. By the year 2002 the number had risen to 6 percent. By the year 2004, the number had risen to 8 percent. And by the end of 2005, the number had risen to 10 percent. Id.
So, what NTSB wants to talk about is the relatively rare event of motorcyclist impairment, while ignoring that 1 out of every 10 cars we encounter on the way home from work every evening are being driven by auto drivers who are DUI level impaired and 4 times more likely to cause accidents. Indeed, the dangers posed to motorcyclists by auto drivers under the influence of cell phones is substantially greater. The reason for this is that auto drivers have a preexisting attentional deficit specific for motorcyclists, that is, dating back to the pre-cell-phone-age 1981 Hurt/USC study, explained by inattentional blindness theory as deriving from internal values of "expectation" and "relevance." The preexisting IB specific for motorcyclists combined now with this new epidemic of cell phone induced inattentional blindness resulting from the switching of attention to the internal-cognitive tasks associated with the give and take of the cell conversation away from the external visual tasks essential for safe driving, renders the cell phone impaired driver especially dangerous to motorcyclists. See, Cell Phone Impairment Scientific Review Article, http://motorcyclists-against-dumb-drivers.com/cell-phones-and-dui-drunk-driving.html Driving under the influence of cell phones is clearly the single "impairment" which contributes most to the incidence of motorcycle accidents, but again NTSB wants to discuss only "rider impairment." This represents the same kind of political cowardice as has characterized NHTSA's politically oriented past domination of the "motorcycle safety" debate. Point the finger only at the biker; never acknowledge any participation of auto driver inattention or negligence. Bikers are a politically disenfranchised minority, a much safer target than the auto driving majority. Hence the long standing politics of "pretending" to do something about the politically selected subset motorcyclist "fatalities," misdirecting attention away from the real, four wheeled, culprits.
In our Counter-Agenda, we set forth our statement of "What the NTSB Agenda should have been." We invite all to criticize our Counter-Agenda and add their own Agenda topics. Indeed, our Counter-Agenda was drafted specifically to prompt biker debate on Bruce and Ray's Bikers Forum at LDRLongDistanceRiders given that we consider that the NTSB Forum Agenda discloses that the "fix is in" at NTSB. We have forwarded to the Forum Chairman our "Objection" to the NTSB Motorcycle Safety Forum Agenda, and "Motion to Substitute an Agenda Raising The Real Safety Issues Facing Motorcyclists." Each of you is invited to do the same. You may cut and paste those aspects of our "Counter-Agenda" with which you agree, add yours, and e-mail your own "Objection to 'Motorcycle Safety' Forum Agenda and Motion to Substitute a Different Agenda." Indeed, we would urge you to do so. The e-mail address for the NTSB Forum Chairman is as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Moderator, Bruce and Ray's Biker Forum, LDRLongDistanceRiders