Bikers Rights to Motorcyclist Safety SITEMAP
Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers Joins ABATE Montana's Efforts To Persuade Montana State Legislator Betsy Hands Not To Submit Proposed Mandatory Helmet Bill.
From the Motorcyclist Safety Perspective We Argue That Helmet Legislation Is Ill-Designed to Reduce the Landscape of Motorcyclist Injury Resulting From Multi-Vehicle Motorcycle Accidents. Instead We Suggested Alternative Motorcycle Safety Proposals Appropriately Calculated to Address the States True Public Health and State Fiscal Concerns.
We received a request from Linda Baldwin, Secretary of ABATE Montana urging M-A-D-D to prepare correspondence to Montana state legislator, Betsy Hands, to urge her to refrain from submitting a proposed mandatory helmet law bill to the legislature. Currently Montana is a Free state.
What Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers can do is provide a motorcycle safety offensive concurrent with the bikers rights defense to proposed helmet legislation. We support our brother freedom fighters in their demands for personal dignity and freedom of choice, while we take the motorcycle safety perspective that helmet laws are ill designed to reduce the landscape of motorcyclist injury. Instead, we urge that if these legislators are sincere about reducing the incidence of motorcyclist injury and death, that we have the solutions, and we set them forth. We consider that our motorcycle safety response is complimentary to the freedom fighter positions, and we seize the opportunity to make inroads for the worthy alternative motorcycle safety strategies which we at Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers consider much more reasonably calculated to effectively reduce the obscene incidence of the full panoply of motorcyclist injuries resulting from multi-vehicle accidents.
A week previous to receiving this call from ABATE Montana we received a call from Bill Evens of ABATE Utah to join with him in attempting to nip in the bud a plan proposed by the Salt Lake City Mayor to enact a municipal mandatory helmet ordinance. We criticized that proposed ordinance as did many other biker organizations and individual bikers. Bill Evens wrote back to say that the Mayor had contacted him to inform him that the bill was off the table. We are hopefull that with the joinder of bikers rights advocates and motorcycle safety advocates and individual bikers expressing their individual points of view that we can make an impact upon the decisions of our local, state and national representatives.
Reprinted immediately below is our Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers motorcycle safety position presented to Montana state representative Betsy Hands urging her to refrain from introducing her proposed mandatory motorcycle helmet bill and consider our alternative motorcycle safety proposals instead.
Honorable Betsy Hands,
I am writing on behalf of Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers, which has as its mission to improve motorcyclist safety nationwide. I am informed that you have asked that a mandatory helmet law bill be prepared, presumably with the intent to recommend it to your colleagues in the Montana legislature.
You will certainly receive a good number of letters from Montana motorcyclists and motorcyclists who are resident of other states who look forward to vacationing in your beautiful and "free" state of Montana. And you may wish to consider that motorcyclists, like most people, would prefer to live and vacation in locations which respect their dignity as adults to make their adult choices free of the dictates of government so long as they harm no one else.
We hope that you will seriously consider these pleas, because this is indeed a matter of personal dignity, our right as adults consider for ourselves the competing risk considerations, and make these adult decisions without the indignity of paternalistic government supervision.
You understand what it is to respect the dignity of others of your residents and others who come to your state to vacation. Consider the many thousands of skiers who come to Montana each year to enjoy your world class skiing at Lookout Pass, Moonlight Basin, Teton Pass, and Turner Mountain. Certainly, if you accept the position that motorcyclists benefit to some extent from using helmets, you must acknowledge that these skiers would also benefit from the use of helmets, and yet you find it in yourself to respect their dignity and freedom to make their own individual choices.
Motorcyclists are not asking for anything more -- just to have their dignity and right to choose respected.
What we would like to contribute to the good and valid points made by other motorcyclist organizations, is our motorcyclist safety perspective that helmet laws are ill-designed to achieve the purpose of substantially reducing motorcyclist injury, and we would take this opportunity to suggest that there are a number of other, much more effective means of reducing the incidence of motorcyclist injury.
If you will consider citing a "public health crisis" or "state fiscal crisis" as the rational basis for this proposed helmet legislation, we would urge you to reconsider. While these are the traditional political arguments for overcoming the interests of motorcyclists in their dignity and freedom, in order to present these purported "rational bases" in support of helmet legislation necessarily requires concerted prevarication which is unbecoming of good and thoughtful politicians. The time when politicians could get away with it are over. Indeed, those involved in motorcyclist safety and knowledgeable about the relevant statistics are no longer willing to accept this political prevarication when the result is that the real motorcycle safety issues are being sidestepped and ignored.
We assume at this point only that you are a good and thoughtful representative of the state of Montana and we are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in our assumption that your interest in helmet legislation derives from good and kind concern for the safety of motorcyclists. If this is true, then it must be that you have simply been misled to believe that helmet legislation is the panacea for what is surely an obscene incidence of motorcyclist injury and death on our highways.
From our motorcyclist safety perspective, we consider that the position that mandatory helmet legislation might solve any asserted "public health" or "state fiscal" crisis must require concerted dishonesty in the presentation of the scientific evidence. Historically, some government agencies and politicians have promulgated this prevarication in the service of their political ends. It may serve a political purpose to "appear" to be doing something on a public health issue, but helmet laws are ill-designed to reduce motorcyclist injury or for that matter reduce any asserted fiscal burden on the state associated with motorcyclist medical expense.
Your public health concerns and state fiscal concerns are not defined by the limited number of motorcyclist head injuries or deaths which might arguably be averted or reduced in their severity. First, it is only a small percentage of head trauma cases in which the impact energies fall within the window of helmet efficacy that a helmet can be effective to reduce the severity of the injury. But even more to the point, your
"public health crisis" and "state fiscal crisis," if you assert these as your rational basis for helmet legislation, are statistically indefensible. Motorcyclists suffer an entire landscape of injuries, quadriplegia, paraplegia, other spinal cord injuries, debilitating internal injuries, catastrophic orthopedic injuries, limb amputations, etc., none of which can be averted or reduced by the use of a helmet. It is the full panoply of motorcyclist injury that accurately defines your legitimate public health concerns. It is the full landscape of motorcyclist injury that also defines your state fiscal crisis. Your state fiscal concerns are not merely the limited number of head injuries which might arguably be reduced by mandatory helmet legislation. Motorcyclists who are rendered quadriplegic or suffer other spinal cord injuries also run up substantial medical bills, sometimes lifelong medical expense. And it is certain that for the full panoply of injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents, from spinal cord injuries to catastrophic internal or orthopedic injuries, that there is the potential that the medical costs will become the state's burden to pay. And so helmet legislation is certainly ill-designed to solve this more accurately stated state fiscal concern.
(Parenthetically, it is not the motorcyclist who is responsible for this state fiscal crisis, regardless how it is defined. Two-thirds of all multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents result from the negligence of the auto driver, and so it is the auto driver who is legally and morally obligated to pay the medical expenses. Thus, the reason the state must bear the medical expense in most cases derives not from any failure on the part of the motorcyclist to pay but from the auto drivers failure to meet his legal and moral responsibilities.)
As a motorcycle safety organization what we would propose is that you consider legislation that is honestly and truly calculated to reduce the full landscape of motorcyclist injury rather legislation only to promote the appearance that you are doing something to solve your public health or fiscal crisis.
Simply but accurately stated: What all of the full panoply of motorcyclist injuries have in common is that they result from motorcycle accidents. So if you want to reduce the incidence of the full landscape of motorcyclist injuries, we have concluded that the strategy must be to reduce the incidence of motorcycle accidents.
Again, two-thirds of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are caused solely by the negligence of an auto driver, without any fault of the motorcyclist, and two-thirds of that number, or 50 percent of the total, result from auto driver inattention to oncoming motorcyclist at intersections, specifically as the motorist pulls out into the intersection from a side street or turns left at an intersection into the rider's right of way.
There is a wealth of information explaining this visual-visual "inattentional blindness," most importantly the work of Mack & Rock, 1998, suggesting that the solution is to raise auto driver "expectation" for motorcyclists and to increase auto driver recognition of the "relevance" of the motorcyclist. We would be pleased to provide more information on this subject. However, there are a number of strategies which we have suggested to modify auto driver inattention.
The strategies include mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues including by providing specific information on the driving strategies which motorists must use for the protection of motorcyclists. This can be done inexpensively, simply by modifying your auto driver education booklets and the tests that auto drivers must take to obtain their licenses. We would be pleased to describe in more detail our recommendations in that regard too. We urge also that motorcycle safety be presented comprehensively as a part of the curriculum in your high school driver education courses, that it be made a requirement for private driver education courses, and that it be taught in all court ordered driver education courses.
We also urge right of way legislation with a provision for serious penalties, such a one year drivers license suspension for motorists who violate a motorcyclists right of way and injure or kill the motorcyclist. Again we urge this motorcyclist specific ROW legislation as a way to reinforce the auto driver's perception of the "relevance" to him of the danger he poses to the oncoming motorcyclist.
It would be productive also for the state of Montana to take the lead in promoting motorcycle awareness campaigns as has been recommended by NHTSA and Governors nationwide. If properly funded to reach a significant percentage of the population these campaigns have been suggested to lead auto drivers in greater numbers to "expect" the oncoming motorcyclist and avoid the most common right of way violations. Some have offered creative and potentially less expensive motorcycle awareness measures such as "Watch for Motorcyclists" signs at key intersections.
Finally, and most importantly, if you want to reduce the incidence of motorcycle accidents and the consequent landscape of motorcyclists injury, please consider legislation to completely curtail the use of cell phones while driving. It is now established by the extant epidemiological literature and controlled experimental studies that driving under the influence of cell conversation results in DUI driving impairment and a 4 fold increased likelihood that the motorist will cause an accident. This is a particularly serious safety issue because the use of cell phones while driving is now epidemic, with 1 out of every 10 motorists at any given daylight moment in time actively engaged in cell conversation. From the motorcyclists perspective, he must now contend with 1 out of every 10 cars he encounters driven by motorists who are DUI level driving impaired, and in the accidents that these drivers cause it will be the motorcyclist who is most likely to be injured. But the accidents resulting from driving under the influence of cell conversation kill motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians and other auto drivers, so this is a concern for the safety of all Montana's citizenry. Indeed, it is a huge public health issue and huge fiscal issue for the state, much much larger than the state could hope to cure with helmet legislation.
But please understand that only comprehensive cell phone legislation will curtail the dangers. Handheld cell phone legislation is worse than no legislation at all. Motorists will simply switch over the hands-free devices while driving and will be misinformed by the legislation that driving under the influence of hands-free conversation is "safe." Please appreciate that the science demonstrates without any controversy at all that it is the conversation, not holding the phone, which results in the DUI driving impairment and 4 fold increased likelihood of a resulting accident. We have prepared a scientific review article in which we cite and review all the scientific literature on the subject. You may consider the article at http://motorcyclists-against-dumb-drivers.com/cell-phones-and-dui-drunk-driving.html
There is much that the good State of Montana can do for the safety of motorcyclists and other motorists, and we applaud your good will in seeking to provide for motorcyclist safety. But we urge that the means you have chosen in the form of your proposed municipal helmet ordinance is not appropriately calculated to achieve your good intentions. We hope instead that you will consider our other proposals for improving motorcyclist safety.
Very truly yours,
Raymond L. Henke
Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers