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Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month

This "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month" Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers has been actively soliciting information from Governors offices, state officials and policy makers in all 50 states with regard to their specific, concrete efforts to contribute to the safety of motorcyclists. The information is being compiled so that targeted recommendations specific to each state can be made similar to that with regard to the state of Florida which we have set forth by way of example below. The position paper will be submitted to the symposium by the wife of Florida's late ABATE safety director on for Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers to the Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Symposium scheduled for May 19, 2006. The symposium will be attended by Florida state policy makers and biker advocates. In addition Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers has been invited to give speeches to biker rallies celebrating Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month. An example of a speech delivered for Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers by David Timm, CEO of ABATE Utah at the ABATE Motorcycle Awareness Month Rally, is also reprinted below.

Our Motorcyclist Against Dumb Drivers message has already received a good deal of positive reaction even before its presentation, as it has been circulated in the biker rights community. Bruce Arnold of Long Distance Riders took the initiative to circulate our Florida position statement to bikers rights advocates nationwide in advance of the Florida symposium, and in his correspondence states: "This paper is a must read for bikers rights activists everywhere:" As suggested by Papa John Brennan at Panhandle ABATE, "This should be sent to every Senator and House Rep. and to our Congress."

Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month is a great opportunity for Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers to communicate with state officials involved in policy making. We've initiated the process of obtaining information from state officials in every state, just as is described in the preamble to the position paper presented to the Florida symposium. Hopefully by years end we will have sufficient information to both applaud and criticize the specific motorcycle safety policies and programs in every state and provide specific recommendations tailored to the programs existing and lacking in each state.

If you consider that Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers might contribute to symposia or other "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month" activities or motorcycle rallies and other biker events in your state this month or at any time during the year, please let us know.

Call to Freedom Fighters to Join M-A-D-D Efforts, Reprinted from LDR Long Distance Riders

Fellow Freedom Fighters, The following is a position paper submitted by "Madd Ray" Henke of Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers to the Motorcycle Safety Awareness Symposium to be held May 19th in Orlando, Florida. This paper is a must read for bikers rights activists everywhere:

Position Statement of Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers Submitted to Motorcycle Safety Awareness Symposium, May 19, Orlando Florida

Honorable representatives of the Florida Department of Highway Safety Motor Vehicles, good friends representing ABATE of Florida, Florida policy makers, other honored guests and speakers:

My name is Ray Henke. I am a biker, knowledgeable from the seat up about the dangers motorcyclists face riding our streets and highways. I am also a pharmaceutical product liability attorney of 25 years and educated in the scientific method and statistics. I submit this symposium position paper on behalf of "Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers."

In preparing our position specifically to contribute to the State of Florida's consideration of avenues for the enhancement of motorcycle safety this "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month," I have communicated with a number of good and knowledgeable Florida state officials involved with traffic safety and in particular motorcyclist safety. Those with whom I've corresponded, and who have been most helpful, include Marcia D. Lich, Safety Management System Coordinator, Florida Department of Transportation, and Trenda McPherson, DOT Traffic Safety Specialist and Program Manager over Motorcycle Safety for the Florida Department of Transportation's State Safety Office.

With your permission, what I would like to do first is identify what we consider to be the "problem," then offer what we consider to be the "solution," followed by a specific critique of what we would consider to be lacking in the State of Florida's motorcycle safety focus and efforts.

Preliminarily, motorcyclist safety is a serious public health issue in the State of Florida. There has been a significant increase in motorcycle registration and motorcycle drivers license applications in the State of Florida in recent years. Significant to any consideration of this public health issue it must be recognized that there is a disproportionate incidence of multi-vehicle accidents involving motorcycles. Furthermore, specifically because of this huge incidence of motorcycle accidents coupled with the vulnerability of motorcyclists to every manner of injury, from paralysis to internal injury, orhopedic injury, amputation and death, the failure to act specifically to reduce the incidence of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents constitutes a public health policy failure. The number of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents also constitutes a significant state fiscal concern because the auto drivers most commonly responsible for the accidents are almost always woefully underinsured to pay for the injured motorcyclists medical bills and so the cost of the immediate and long term medical care will often fall to the state.

The "problem" is this hugely disproportionate incidence of multi-vehilce motorcycle accidents, and to understand why the incidence isdisproportionate, one need only take the most cursory look at the statistics to be informed that fully two-thirds of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are solely the result of auto driver inattention and negligence without any negligence on the part of the motorcyclist. (Indeed, we suspect that these statistics grossly underestimate the problem of auto driver inattention and negligence as every biker will have a hundred stories of auto driver created hazards which they have narrowly escaped only by their anticipation of potential hazards and their quick response.)

The "solution" to the state's public health and fiscal issues therefore must focus, if it is to be effective, on this disproportionate incidence of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents resulting from auto driver inattention and negligence. When outlaw Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he said "because that's where the money is." If we are concerned about reducing the incidence of motorcycle injury and death, the "money" is in reducing the two-thirds of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents caused solely by the inattention and negligence of the auto driver. Unfortunately, what we have seen is that many states have focused myopically on robbing liquor stores instead of targeting banks. And by this I mean specifically the focus of many states on "what bikers wear," manifest most commonly in helmet laws, and on recommending that bikers wear multicolored riding suits in the mistaken assumption that it is the motorcyclists "lack of conspicuity" that is the etiology of auto driver inattention.

Focusing more closely on "where the money is," the vast majority of the two-thirds of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents resulting solely from auto driver inattention and negligence occur at intersections, most commonly when an auto driver enters an intersection from a side street or turns left at an intersection into the motorcyclists right-of-way. All too commonly the auto driver who maims or kills the biker at an intersection will say he "didn't see" the motorcyclist. So if we are to "rob this bank" we need to modify auto driver inattention while the auto drivers are engaging in these specific driving behaviors which most commonly result in multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents.

There is an unfortunate misconception deriving from the original large Harry Hurt motorcycle accident study that intersection motorcycle accidents are the result of the "lack of conspicuity" of the motorcycle. This conclusion was not data, nor was it supported by the data; rather it was the speculation of the author which has again unfortunately been repeated over and over without critical examination. Furthermore, the concept of "lack of conspicuity" has been interpreted to connote "lack of visibility" leading policy makers to conclude that the size of the motorcycle is at fault and hence that intersection motorcycle accidents are essentially unavoidable. The fact is that motorcycles are just as visible as cars at the distance at which a car entering an intersection would pose a hazard to the motorcycle. Indeed, now that motorcycles come equipped with headlights which turn on at ignition and remain on day and night, it is likely that motorcycles are more visible than cars. So why is it that auto drivers don't "see" motorcycles when entering intersections and turning left at intersections? The answer is in part the subject of the body of literature on "inattentional blindness" an adequate discussion of which is necessarily beyond the scope of this position paper, but it has to do with expectation, relevance, muscle memory and a number of other factors; the solution to which has to do with making looking for a specific object in the visual field an active, conscious, task. [See: FN 1]

[FN1: One example of a study on inattentional blindness involved the use of a computer program which presented baseball players, some with black jerseys and some with white jerseys, running around a baseball diamond. The study subjects were asked to perform counting tasks specific to the players with the black jerseys. During the computer game the investigators had inserted a gorilla which would run across the baseball diamond periodically. The subjects commonly denied having "seen" the gorilla despite that it was equally as visible as the baseball players.] The "solution" to modifying auto driver inattention to motorcyclists is not as simple as just to tell auto drivers to be aware of motorcyclists; rather, to be most effective the auto driver should be educated to perform a specific task when engaging in the auto driver behaviors during which they most commonly fail to see the motorcyclist. This can be done, for example, by informing the auto driver that it is more difficult to gauge the speed of an oncoming motorcycle and so when entering an intersection they must actively look for the oncoming motorcycle, and take the time to carefully gauge its speed before entering the intersection or turning left at an intersection.

The foregoing is intended to identify the bank, where the money is, and to provide the gross architectural layout for robbing it. There are other depositories that can also be robbed. For example, auto drivers commonly fail to appreciate that motorcycles generally can stop more quickly than cars and so they need to leave a greater number of car lengths distance when following a motorcycle. Also, auto drivers are commonly ignorant of the fact that the car rear view mirrors have holes in them large enough to obscure a motorcyclist riding or passing in an adjoining lane and so they fail to appreciate that they must turn their heads and look into their rear view blind spots before changing lanes. The problem is auto driver ignorance of motorcycle safety issues and autodriver ignorance of the specific motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which they must employ for the protection of their two wheeled brethren. The solution to ignorance is education.

There are a panoply of available opportunities for the State of Florida to educate its auto drivers on motorcycle safety issues, and every effort should be applauded, so long as it is focused sensibly to provide auto drivers the specific tools they require to modify their behaviors which most commonly will result in motorcycle accidents.

What we consider would be the most effective means of reducing the incidence of motorcycle accidents in the State of Florida, would be to (1) modify your driver education booklets to provide comprehensive and targeted information on motorcycle safety issues and specifically, comprehensive information on the motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which auto drivers must employ for the protection of motorcyclists; (2) include in your written tests which auto drivers must take to obtain or renew their licenses again a comprehensive list of questions on motorcycle safety issues and strategies for avoiding motorcycle accidents; and (3) adopt a state policy to deny driving privileges to any auto driver who fails to answer correctly any motorcycle safety question.

Reviewing the information we have been provided thus far from the various Florida officials who have provided us information with regard to the state's motorcycle safety policies and the foci of its efforts to reduce motorcyclist injury suggest that there is a misunderstanding of both the problem and the solution.

We have reviewed the 2004 announcement of Governor Bush declaring May "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month." The announcement states only that motorcycles are increasingly being used on Florida highways, and that they are energy efficient, for which we are grateful; but in the only sentence on the issue of motorcycle safety, Governor Bush states: "as a matter of safety, it is necessary to develop skills and awareness of proper driving habits to handle these vehicles on the highways of our state." As we understand it, the following year Governor Bush then recommended that the state's requirement that motorcyclists undergo 16 hours of training be made to apply to all motorcyclists, regardless of age.

We certainly do not quarrel with the objective of improving motorcyclist skill; but again, what the statistics demonstrate is that the vast majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are solely the result of auto driver inattentiveness and negligence without any fault on the part of the motorcyclist. So, from our perspective, what needs to be done is for state government to focus (also) on educating auto drivers on motorcycle safetyissues and the basic motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which auto drivers must employ for the protection of motorcyclists.

It would be great if Florida would require Florida auto drivers to undergo 16 hours of training on motorcycle safety issues and motorcycle accident avoidance strategies to compliment your efforts to educate motorcyclists. Indeed, this would be more strategically focused on the true, statistically established, principle cause of motorcycle accidents. We realize that it is a much greater political hurdle for state government to impose a substantial burden on the majority of its citizenry rather than on a minority, but if we are truly committed to reducing the incidence of motorcycle accidents, then we have to "go where the money is"; we have to address what is clearly the major cause of motorcycle accidents, and that is the ignorance of auto drivers about motorcycle safety issues and their lack of awareness of the auto driving strategies which they must employ for our safety.

We are concerned that while the Florida state government focuses on this extensive motorcycle training course prerequisite to obtaining a motorcycle license, that the auto driver can take the written test to obtain his driving privileges online.

Furthermore, in the Florida sample written test which we reviewed at the Department of Vehicles web site what we found was that there was not a single motorcycle safety question.

Again, the problem is auto driver ignorance of motorcycle safety issues, and the solution is auto driver education, including on the specific motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which auto drivers must employ for the protection of bikers. If it is deemed politically unfeasible to require auto drivers to undergo the same kind of intensive training that you require of motorcyclists, then at least, please consider modifying your DMV booklets, modifying the written tests which your citizens must take to obtain their auto drivers privileges, and in recognition of the importance of the public health issue and Florida fiscal concern, please consider a policy to deny driving privileges to auto drivers who fail to a demonstrate full competent understanding of motorcycle safety issues and the motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which they must employ for the protection of their two wheeled fellow citizens.

Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers is not an organization which specifically has as its mission to contribute to the debate over motorcycle helmet laws. It is our observation, however, that the states have commonly focused so myopically on this issue that the real, substantial issues contributing to motorcycle accidents and hence the broad range of resulting motorcyclist injury are ignored. A Sufi writer once recounted the story of encountering aman on his knees below a lamp post on a narrow Middle Eastern street. He asked, "What are you doing?" The man answered: "I'm looking for my keys." The Sufi asked "Where did you drop them?" The man pointed to the other side of the street "Over there, below my door." So the Sufi asked: "So why are you looking here?" The man answered, "Because this is where the light is." In my personal review of the literature with regard to the utility of motorcycle helmets I have been struck time and time again by the consistent lack of appreciation for the basic principles of scientific methodology and common failure to apply accepted statistical methodology. The studies are poorly designed, any weak correlation is considered the basis for overreaching investigator conclusions without application of statistical criteria, and it is this uniformly bad science that has focused the debate. As a product of my review of the literature, I will tell you candidly that I don't think there is any good evidence one way or the other about the degree to which motorcycle helmets may have utility in reducing the incidence of motorcyclist injury and death. But what I will say is that those policy makers who focus on the helmet issue and not on the much more important issue of reducing the incidence of motorcycle accidents are looking in the wrong direction, "on the other side of the street, under the lamp post, instead of where they will find the key."

We are aware that Florida is one of the good states which has recognized that the solution to motorcyclist safety is not effectively addressed by impairing biker freedom or paternalistically telling bikers what they should wear. We congratulate the state of Florida for this decision. We join with ABATE in their efforts to redirect the focus now to identifying more productive means of insuring motorcyclist safety. If the state will adopt and implement policies targeted at reducing the incidence of motorcycle accidents, including the auto driver education initiatives recommended above, what we anticipate will occur is that the incidence of motorcyclist injury and death will be substantially reduced among both helmeted bikers and bikers who chose not to use helmets.

Thank you for your consideration in the above regard.

Raymond L. Henke
Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers

Invited Speech Prepared by M-A-D-D for Delivery to the ABATE Utah "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month" Biker Rights Rally.

The following is speech which was prepared by Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers at the request of the David Timm, CEO of ABATE Utah, for presentation at the ABATE Utah "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month" Bikers Rights Rally. David kindly delivered the speech on our behalf.

As requested by Mr. Tim, we had to keep the speech short, and so it lacks some of the detail that we feel is optimal for a complete presentation of certain issues, such as our criticism of NHTSA's defeatist capitulation to the concept of "lack of conspicuity" as a defense for doing nothing to modify auto driver inattentional blindness to motorcycles when entering intersections and turning left at intersections. But this was a wonderful opportunity to get Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers basic message out that the real problem facing us as bikers is auto driver ignorance of motorcycle safety issues and that the solution is mandatory auto driver education on the motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which auto drivers must use for the protection of bikers.

Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers Speech to ABATE Utah Biker Rally

Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers congratulates the Utah Department of Public Safety in its announcement of "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month.

In the first line of their announcement, they hit the nail on the head. "Over two-thirds of the fatal motorcycle crashes involve a motorcycle and another vehicle, and usually the motor vehicle driver either does not see the oncoming motorcycle at all, or does not see the motorcycle in time to avoid a crash."

Slowly policy makers are coming to realize that the real problem is not what bikers wear, but how auto drivers fail to appreciate what they must do for the protection of their two wheeled brethren.

Every experienced Utah biker knows what is the biggest threat to our safety on the road.

It is the idiotic antics of auto drivers we face at every intersection and turn.

What we know from our riding experience is also demonstrated in the statistics, that fully 2/3 of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are solely the result of auto driver inattention and negligence.

The most common cause of motorcycle accidents is indeed auto driver inattention when entering an intersection from a side street or turning left at an intersection into a motorcyclist's right of way.

Auto drivers also don't know that their rear view mirrors have holes in them large enough to obscure a motorcyclist passing in an adjoining lane - and so they fail to appreciate that they have to turn their heads into their blind spots before changing lanes.

Auto drivers also do not understand that bikes can stop more quickly than cars, so they don't realize that they have to more distance when following a motorcyclist.

The problem is auto driver ignorance of motorcycle safety issues and auto driver ignorance of the motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which they must employ for the safety of their two wheeled brethren.

The only solution to ignorance is education. "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month" is just a start.

What is needed is mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues.

The Utah auto driver education booklets need to be revised to include comprehensive information on motorcycle safety issues and the specific motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which auto drivers must employ for our safety.

The written tests which Utah auto drivers take to obtain and renew their drivers licenses must be revised to include a comprehensive list of motorcycle safety questions.

And the State of Utah must adopt a policy to deny driving privileges to any auto driver who fails to demonstrate full knowledge an appreciation for motorcycle safety issues by answering all motorcycle safety questions correctly.

We applaud ABATE of Utah for seizing this "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month" to draw attention to the problem and solution.
 
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