Reprinted immediately below is an anti-biker diatribe by Fred Grimm for the Miami Herald published March 14, 2006.
Immediately below that is the response of Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers directed to Mr. Grimm and the Editor of the Miami Herald.
The Miami Herald article was sent to Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers by Bruce Arnold, Editor of the Long Distance Rider, asking that we consider writing to Mr. Grimm and the Editor of the Miami Herald to contest the statistical misrepresentations. Indeed, the language of the Herald article misrepresents the Florida statistics, citing an 81 percent increase in motorcycle deaths since the repeal of the Florida helmet law without mentioning that there was 110 percent increase in the number of motorcycles registered in Florida during the same time period. The article also states that there were 18 deaths during their recent Bike Week, but failed to illuminate on the causes of the accidents, apparently citing the number of deaths to argue again that the repeal of the helmet law was responsible. Since there are other bikers rights organizations which will take the lead in criticizing the Grimm article on the issue of "choice," Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers elected to challange the Grimm article as sidestepping the fact that the great majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are soley the result of auto driver negligence to the exclusion of motorcyclist fault, and more specifically auto driver ignorance of motorcycle safety issues and auto driver ignorance of motorcycle accident avoidance strategies. We suggested that if Grimm cared about the safety of bikers what he could do is write an article for ther Herald calling on Florida Governor Bush to mandate mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues. Unable to restrain ourselves, we also took issue with Grimm's flagrantly anti-biker tone, inter alia, referring to motorcyclists as "middle-aged pseudo outlaws ... who disguise their paunches under black leather vests with bold inscriptions: LIVE FREE OR DIE."
This year's edition of that raucous good time called Bike Week racked up 18 deaths. Eighteen deaths would represent a particularly gruesome week for the U.S. military. Last week, as the fun was unfolding in Daytona Beach, a total of seven soldiers were killed in Iraq. In Iraq, of course, well-armed insurgents are bent on killing American soldiers. In Daytona, attendees at America's deadliest jamboree mostly do it to themselves. Eighteen deaths in another sort of festival might raise serious questions about the wisdom of promoting an annual outbreak of utter mayhem. Imagine the pall that 18 corpses might cast over the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival, the Bonita Spring Art Festival, the Arcadia Rodeo or Jacksonville's All-Florida Championship Cheerleading Challenge. All of these events managed to make it through this past weekend without a related death. Thousands of revelers danced down Calle Ocho in Miami without inflicting fatal injuries on one another. MEANINGLESS STATS In Florida, however, biker deaths are recorded on a different ledger. Since the Florida law requiring motorcycle riders to wear crash helmets was repealed in 2000, the official position has been that the 81 percent increase in biker deaths has been a meaningless statistical aberration which should have no bearing on public policy. Anti-helmet law activists maintain that the numbers have been skewed anyway by a conspiracy of trauma docs and insurance companies and medical examiners and highway safety busybodies and hospital bean counters and know-it-all editorial writers -- none of whom appreciate the joy of wind in the hair and asphalt in the frontal lobe. The initial reports out of Daytona Beach indicate that at least 12 of the 18 bikers killed during Bike Week were riding bareheaded when they crashed. Yes, but weren't they exercising their God-given American right to crack unprotected skulls into any roadside attraction of their choosing? Which ought to be fine, as long as bikers then have the good manners to succumb. It's those who insist on lingering around hospital trauma centers whose personal freedoms intrude on the commonweal. By last week, midway through Bike Week, 34 bikers had been admitted to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Halifax spokeswoman Kate Holcomb said 15 of those were housed in the trauma wards with severe injuries, running up prodigious medical bills. She said the hospital would need another day to total up biker admissions from Wednesday to Sunday. FEW ARE INSURED Last year, 60 easy riders were admitted to Halifax with serious injuries during Bike Week. In 2004, the number was 78. The hospital has complained for years that few of the motorcyclists hauled into their trauma ward have bothered with a state requirement that anyone riding without a helmet purchase a $10,000 personal-injury policy. Although, as Holcomb noted Monday, ``That would barely pay for their helicopter ride to the hospital.'' The costs of treating uninsured and underinsured bikers has risen from $20 million a year in 2000 to $50 million last year -- a big chunk of that money going to treat head trauma victims. But no one expects the Florida Legislature to resurrect the mandatory helmet law. Polls indicate that 80 percent of the general public would support a helmet law. No matter. Lawmakers don't dare stir up the biker lobby, which can summon 30,000 unmuffled hogs to come roaring into Tallahassee and stage a fearsome rolling demonstration of middle-aged pseudo outlaws on Harleys. They disguise their paunches under black leather vests with bold inscriptions: LIVE FREE OR DIE (or maybe convalesce at the public expense). Besides, so many bareheaded riders would likely rack up another big death toll. Fred Grimm is The Miami Herald's Broward columnist.
Subj: Your Anti-biker diatribe is Irresponsible Journalism - Please Forward to Editor
Date: 3/14/2006 5:36:03 PM Pacific Standard Time
From: RARELY L84AD8@aol.com
Dear Mr. Grimm,
You are way off base with your anti-biker diatribe. Indeed, it is unfortunate that what holds itself out as a legitimate newspaper would consider publishing such poorly written, ill reasoned, and unresearvedly biased attacks as "journalism."
Rather obviously what you intend is to attack bikers or biker gatherings and seek to support your point of view with "statistics" which you misrepresent in the service of your thesis. Either you don't have training in scientific methodology, or you have intentionally chosen to ignore the scientific method simply to take your cheap shot.
One could write volumes on the meaninglessness of the “statistics” you quote. Most obviously, however, you cite only to the number of deaths without any discussion of the causes of the accidents. The fact is that the vast majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are the result of auto driver negligence without any negligence on the part of the motorcycle rider. Indeed, the principle cause of motorcycle accidents is auto driver ignorance of motorcycle safety issues and auto driver ignorance of motorcycle accident avoidance strategies. The statistics demonstrate that the most common cause of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents is the propensity of auto drivers to turn out in front of motorcyclists at intersections from side streets or by turning left in front of motorcyclist without regard for the motorcyclists right of way. The auto drivers usually claim that they “didn’t see” the motorcyclist. And that is in part because auto drivers don’t consider motorcycles a threat to them and so that don’t look for motorcycles in the same way that they would look for a car or truck. And in part it is because auto drivers don’t recognize the enhanced duty they owe to motorcyclists to actually turn their heads, open their eyes and look for motorcyclists before entering intersections or turning left at intersections. Auto drivers also don’t realize that their rear view mirrors have holes in them large enough to obscure a motorcycle riding or passing in an adjoining lane, and they have not been educated that they need to turn their heads into their blind spots before changing lanes. Auto drivers are also ignorant of the fact that bikes can stop more quickly than cars so that they need to provide greater distance when following a motorcycle.
The only way to reduce the incidence of motorcycle accidents is to obviate the ignorance of auto drivers, and the only way to do that is by mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues. If you are not simply an irate anti-biker but actually care about this often misunderstood minority, then what I would suggest in terms of something positive you could do is write a column accurately discussing the statistics, and then call Governor Bush to mandate changes in your auto driver DMV booklets to include comprehensive information with regard to motorcycle safety and motorcycle accident avoidance strategies, lobby for a comprehensive list of motorcycle safety questions on the written tests which Florida auto drivers must pass to obtain or renew their auto drivers licenses. And urge that no auto driver be permitted an auto drivers license if he fails to answer all motorcycle safety questions correctly.
So what is it, buddy. Are you just a lousy anti-biker arm-chair critic with your fat belly ill-covered up by your worn out journalists two piece suit, your tie reaching only half-way across your belly?
Or do you want to get serious for a change and do something about the biker carnage that occurs not just during bike weeks but every day of the week on your Florida highways.
In terms of insurance, I agree with your one-sided discussion of half the problem, and indeed, I too think that given the idiotic antics of ignorant auto drivers, and the fact that auto drivers are irresponsibility woefully underinsured to pay for the kinds of catastrophic injuries that they will commonly cause the motorcyclists by their driving stupidity, that it is essential that motorcyclists obtain the highest policy limit uninsured motorist coverage that they can obtain. But to focus solely on the biker, and to feign this outrage that he has failed to obtain adequate insurance coverage to the exclusion of a discussion of the fact that it is so irresponsible for auto drivers not obtain coverage sufficient to pay for the injuries that they wreck in the lives of bikers is just more irresponsible and biased journalism.
Please pass this letter on to your Editor, if you dare, or if you actually believe you point of view retains any validity and will hold up under scrutiny. Your Editor has my permission to print this e-mail in your newspaper’s Letters to the Editor page.
Very truly yours,
Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers