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Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers Congratulates Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle for Declaring May "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month" And Urges Him Now to Order Mandatory Auto Driver Education and Testing on Motorcycle Safety Issues as a Requisite to Obtaining and Renewing Auto Driver Licenses

On May 1, 2006, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle designated May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, as reported on another page of this web site. The Governor stated: "Motorcyclists have the right by law to safe enjoyment of their vehicles, including the full and equal use of the roadway without encroachment by other vehicles whether it be on city streets or rural and urban highways." The Director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation, State Patrol Major Dan Lonsdorf stated: "As motorcycle popularity grows, other motorists need to share the road and watch for motorcycles in traffic, especially at intersections and while making turns or lane changes."

We are grateful for Governor Doyle's good step forward to impress upon the citizenry of his state that "motorcyclists have the right by law to the safe enjoyment of their vehicles," but now practically speaking it will take more to provide auto drivers the specific knowledge of motorcycle safety issues, and the specific motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which they must employ if we as bikers are going to actually be able to enjoy full, safe and equal use of our roads and highways.

In an effort to seize the moment, during this month Governor Doyle has declared "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month" Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers urges that all bikers, and in particular Wisconsin bikers, to write to Governor Doyle and ask him to take the next and most important step to contribute to motorcyclist safety.

The following is the letter which we at Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers have sent to Governor Doyle. We would urge you also to consider sending your own letter to this good Governor to impress upon him the practical need now for mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues and motorcycle accident avoidance strategies. You may adapt the letter below, or write your own letter to the Governor. What is important is that the Governor be urged to take concrete action for the protection of motorcyclists specifically by ordering mandatory auto driver education.

Letter to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle Urging Auto Driver Education on Motorcycle Safety Issues

Dear Governor Doyle:

I represent "Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers" and we applaud you for declaring May "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month"!

Given your declaration of this month as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, now you have the opportunity this month to take what would be practically the most effective concrete action for the protection of motorcyclists on your streets and highways.

The fact is that the vast majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents, more than 2/3 of such accidents, are caused solely by inattentiveness of the auto driver, without any fault 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.

The majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents involve auto drivers pulling out from side streets into the path and right of way of the motorcyclist or auto drivers turning left from the opposite direction in front of the motorcyclist. We were very impressed by the recognition of this fact by State Patrol Major Dan Lonsdorf when he stated: "As motorcycle popularity grows, other motorists need to share the road and watch for motorcycles in traffic, especially at intersections and while making turns or lane changes."

Very commonly the auto driver will state that he didn't “see” the motorcycle, and so your emphasis on "watching" for motorcycles when entering intersections or turning left at intersections is so very important. Auto drivers also fail to appreciate that it is more difficult to gauge the speed of a motorcycle approaching them, and that they need to take the time to carefully gauge the motorcycle's speed before entering an intersection. Providing auto drivers a specific task to employ specific to motorcycles, such as focusing upon their approaching speed, also contributes to overcome the phenomenon of "inattentional blindness" which is the accurate reason why auto drivers don't "see" motorcycles.

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 between the vehicles when following a motorcycle.

It is plain that the major contributor to motorcycle accidents is that auto drivers fail to understand motorcycle safety issues, and have not been educated on motorcycle accident avoidance strategies.

The answer, as you and your staff have hit it on the head, is education. We would urge you to consider is that the state has it within its power to effectively mandate motorcycle safety education simply by providing comprehensive motorcycle safety information in the auto driver license preparation booklets, and then by including questions on motorcycle safety and motorcycle accident avoidance strategies in the written tests which auto drivers must pass to obtain and renew their drivers licenses. This is such an important issue that we would urge that drivers be denied licenses to operate automobiles if they fail to demonstrate competent knowledge of motorcycle safety issues by answering all motorcycle safety and motorcycle accident avoidance strategy questions correctly.

The state politicians who support this effort to make our streets safer for motorcyclists will win the hearts and votes of all motorcyclists because this is a real 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 too often the auto driver who causes the accident will be woefully uninsured to pay for the motorcyclists immediate and long term medical expense and care. When this happens the cost of the medical expense is 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.

We congratulate you on making May "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month" and hope that every day of every month will be a day when Wisconsin auto drivers will consciously apply motorcycle accident avoidance strategies for the protection of their two wheeled brethren. Please consider providing your state's auto drivers the specific strategies for avoiding motorcycle accidents, including by mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues.

Very truly yours.

Raymond L. Henke
Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers
 
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