Motorcycle Safety - A Matter of Bikers Rights SITEMAP
Please Join in our "Open Letter" to AMA, MSF and MRF Urging Them to Take Stands in Favor of Comprehensive Cell Phone Bans!The "Open Letter" presented below was presented toour brothers and sisters at AMA, MSF and MRF to join in making plain their support for comprehensive cell phone bans. We urge all members of these organizations to please join in our "Open Letter" by letting these organizations know that you too consider the dangers posed by motorists who drive under the influence of cell conversation are our number 1 motorcyclist safety issue.
Open Letter to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) and Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).Most Respected Brothers and Sisters:
We believe both strongly and confidently that one of the most potent factors if not the most potent factor contributing to the dangers motorcyclists face riding on our streets today is the now epidemic use of cell phones while driving.
The numbers of motorists using cell phones while driving has crept up on us over the past 5 years, from 2 percent of all Americans driving on our streets at any given moment in time as of the year 2000 to 10 percent as of December 2005 (NOPUS).
As most of us are now aware, driving under the influence of a cell phone is just as dangerous as driving DUI drunk, and the drivers are 4 times more likely to cause an accident. Indeed the most recent studies have demonstrated that those involved in cell conversation are significantly more likely to cause an accident than those who are DUI under the influence of alcohol.
Just so we can get this picture clearly, every time we pull our bikes out onto the street, one out of every 10 cars we encounter will be driven by motorist driving DUI level impaired, no less impaired than a DUI drunk driver, and 4 times more likely to cause an accident.
The danger created by motorists driving under the influence of cell phone conversation is much more serious for motorcyclists than for other motorists for a number of reasons, but most obviously because we are much more vulnerable than other motorists to sustaining serious injuries or being killed in accidents. Auto drivers most commonly walk away from accidents; motorcyclists most commonly will not. We are rendered quadriplegic, paraplegic; we suffer catastrophic orthopedic injuries; we lose our limbs; we find ourselves unable to return to our jobs or professions which we rely upon to support our families; or we are killed.
So, we suggest it is important for our major motorcycle associations to thoughtfully consider the importance of adopting a policy position favoring comprehensive bans on cell phone use while driving.
If we can make one point as strongly and hopefully have it heard clearly: it doesn't matter whether the driver is using a handheld cell phone or a hands-free cell phone. This is demonstrated by the epidemiological literature, the controlled experimental literature, and now the converging neurological literature. And there is no scientific rebuttal.
State politicians, most recently the California legislature and our biker Governor have chosen to enact handheld cell phone legislation only as a function of their political cowardice. It is an attempt only to "appear" to be doing something productive for motorist safety without doing anything productive. After signing the bill Governor Schwarzenegger turned to the cameras and reassured the public that the law wouldn't take effect until 2008, ample time for them to obtain hands-free cell phones to use while driving. Handheld cell phone bans are worse than no ban at all because they will not decrease the use of cell phones while driving, rather they will have the effect only to mislead the public to believe that the use of hands-free cell phones is safe.
Our motorcyclist organizations, particularly those with the greatest political clout and hence the greatest responsibility--like the AMA, MRF and MSF--must not dodge this important motorcycle safety issue, nor succumb to the pressures of politics, particularly when the lives and limbs of their motorcycling constituency are disproportionately at stake.
We have reviewed all of the extant scientific literature and would be pleased to prepare answers to any questions which you or others at the AMA, MRF or MSF may have with regard to the science, citing and quoting the scientific literature so that you may confirm its accuracy.
But very briefly, the epidemiological literature, replicated and published in peer review medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, have demonstrated the DUI level impairment and four-fold increased incidence of accidents for motorists operating their vehicles under the influence of their cell phones, handheld and hands-free.
The controlled experimental studies, most conducted by Strayer, et al. are important in many respects, first in replicating again the DUI level driving impairment and four-fold increased incidence of accidents; indeed Strayer et al. found that those driving under the influence of cell conversation were significantly more likely to cause accidents than the subjects who were DUI alcohol intoxicated.
In several studies Strayer et al. also demonstrated that the DUI impairment and increased incidence of accidents was identical whether the subjects were using handheld and hands-free cell phones.
Strayer et al. also demonstrated convincingly the mechanism of the driving impairment resulting from cell phone use which explains why it doesn't matter if the cell phone is handheld or hands-free. He and his team have demonstrated in multiple studies that the nature of the impairment is an "inattentional blindness" resulting from the cell conversation itself. During the cell conversation, limited capacity for conscious attention is shifted to the internal-cognitive tasks associated with the give and take of the conversation away from the external-visual tasks essential for safe driving. Strayer et al. did a number of studies to demonstrate this and found that the mind does not have the capacity to prioritize visual attention while on the cell phone, that is to selectively notice the more important visual stimuli e.g. traffic signals or a car braking ahead, in preference to the less important stimuli, e.g., billboards. Rather, the inattentional blindness prevents the cell phone impaired driver from seeing changes in the driving environment that would otherwise be expected to draw automatic attention, and indeed, when attention is shifted, the drivers fail to see even the objects upon which their eyes are affixed.
The mechanism identified by Strayer et al., also receives support from the converging Johns Hopkins neurological work of Yantis et al., in which the investigators, using fMRI technology, found that there was a shifting of brain activity from the visual centers of the brain to the auditory centers of the brain during cell conversation. Yantis also concluded from his studies that they supported the inattentional blindness mechanism and explained why the effect of handheld and hands-free use of cell phones results in the same impairment.
All of these studies and others are discussed in our scientific review article published at http://motorcyclists-against-dumb-drivers.com/cell-phones-and-dui-drunk-driving.html
http://motorcyclists-against-dumb-drivers.com/cell-phones-and-dui-drunk-driving.html Some of the other Strayer et al. studies have demonstrated that the degree of impairment and increased incidence of resulting accidents associated with the use of cell phones is much greater than other common distractions, such as listening to the radio, listening to talking books, and engaging in conversation with passengers in the car. Indeed, cell phone use was the only one found to result in DUI-level impairment or the four-fold increased likelihood of causing an accident.
Strayer's experiments also explain the puzzling phenomenon that most commonly we don't believe that our own driving is impaired, although we will readily acknowledge that we see that the driving of other drivers is impaired while on the cell phone. Indeed, this is one of the political challenges because most drivers simply don't believe that they are driving dangerously when on the cell phone. Strayer identified this "disconnect" between driving impairment and one's ability to recognize that one's own driving is impaired and identified the mechanism which explains the disconnect. It can be stated in scientific terms, but we can state it more simply, "when driving under the influence of a cell phone, we don't see what we don't see, so we don't realize that we don't see what we don't see, and so we think we can see just fine." Again it is a function of the inattentional blindness which characterizes the cell phone impairment.
So, now the question becomes whether our most respected motorcycle associations will come forward and articulate a policy calling for comprehensive bans on cell phone use while driving.
We respectfully submit that there can be no defense for failing to take a stand on this issue when cell phone use while driving may constitute the greatest danger we face as motorcyclists today. It is literally the same as if every time we exited our garages onto our streets one in every ten cars we encounter is being driven by a DUI drunk driver, and four times more likely to cause an accident.
And there can be absolutely no defense for failing to take a stand in favor of a comprehensive ban on all cell phone use, meaning handheld and hands-free alike. The impairment is the same. The increased likelihood that the driver will cause an accident is the same. The science is now abundant, consistent and irrefutable.
At the September 13, 2006, "Motorcycle Awareness" segment of the NTSB "Motorcycle Safety" Forum, we were appalled to witness an MSF representative call for a ban on "handheld" cell phone use while driving. This is scientifically indefensible; indeed, handheld bans can only be viewed as worse than no ban at all because they mislead the public to believe that the use of hands-free devices while driving is safe.
This cannot be the position adopted by our most influential motorcyclist associations. It is scientifically dishonest, and that should be enough. But we also have an important responsibility to our constituencies, and our responsibility is even greater, because what distinguishes our constituency is specifically our vulnerability to the accidents which the cell phone impaired drivers cause.
We must call for a comprehensive ban on cell phone use while driving. There is no backup or compromise position that is acceptable. Success can only be measured by the achievement of comprehensive cell phone bans.
Furthermore, as this legislation is developed we must stay in the process, keeping in mind that the objective is to effectively curtail cell phone use while driving, because again, success can only be measured by bans which are written in terms calculated to be effective. This means legislation without exceptions which might swallow up the rule or hinder effective enforcement.
The penalties must be sufficient to curtail driving under the influence of cell phones by everyone. Fines have been found ineffective in reducing handheld cell phone use in New York, even where the citizenry had the option of using hands-free cell phones. The use of handheld phones went down only for a few months and then quickly returned to pre-law levels. Fines also inhibit only the poor, leaving the middle class and wealthy to use their cell phones without inhibition.
Given that driving under the influence of cell phones is as dangerous, or more dangerous than driving DUI under the influence of alcohol, we suggest that there should be no reason why the penalties should differ. Lengthy drivers licenses suspensions we would consider appropriate for first or second offenders, and then more serious penalties, as would be common for multiple offenses of driving under the influence of alcohol.
If this seems draconian, again we suggest that there is no basis upon which to distinguish the drivers impaired by the use of their cell phones from motorists who drive under the influence of alcohol. It is merely the current societal mores which distinguish them. And those mores will change.
The public appreciation for the science will catch up with the prevarication of our politicians, and these politicians will find that their cowardice will ultimately be rewarded with the questions of their constituents asking why in the world would they have enacted handheld cell phone legislation when handheld and hands-free cell phones result in the same DUI level driving impairment and the same four-fold increased likelihood of an accident.
Those politicians who resist the science out of political cowardice at the expense their constituents will be found to be shortsighted, and their political decisions will come back to haunt them. We direct this comment at the state legislators who thus far have either resisted cell phone legislation, or worse, jumped on the dishonest bandwagon for handheld legislation, pretending but not delivering on their purported concern for motorist safety. The body bags are mounting and will, one day, be counted. And their shortsighted political positions will come back to haunt them.
We are in the process of forwarding correspondence to all state legislators and governors advising them of the science summarized above, so that they cannot pretend to be surprised when the body bags are counted.
We hope that our respected and responsible national motorcyclist associations will adopt appropriate policies consistent with both science and their obligations to their motorcyclist constituencies, and will join and indeed take the lead in educating and influencing our legislators.
"M-A-D-D Ray" Henke