Motorcycle Safety - A Matter of Bikers Rights SITEMAP
Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers Takes A Motorcyclist Safety Position In Favor of the Repeal of Motorcycle Helmet LawsMotorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers is not a freedom fighter organization and does not have as a part of its mission the repeal of helmet laws. Our mission is solely to improve riding safety on our streets and highways so that motorcyclists can one day ride without fear that our lives will be taken or our limbs torn usunder as the result of the idiotic antics of ignorant auto drivers. We leave the good fight for our freedom, our dignity, and our right to chose, to the good freedom fighters who have taken up this cause.
We cannot, unfortunately, just stay out of the debate, because the unfortunate, myopic and paternalitic focus of NHTSA and state politicians on "what bikers wear" from helmets to multicolored neon clown suits, simply gets in the way of our efforts to focus on the real motorcycle safety issues and the true solutions to this serious bikers safety issue, important public health issue and state fiscal issue.
We believe that our motorcyclist safety position offers a unique position supportive of the good work of our freedom fighters in their efforts to defend our dignity and preserve our freedoms. We consider that it is important to contribute our position to the helmet law debate specifically so that we can redirect the efforts of our legislators and governors to the real safety issues. It also gives us another context in which Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers can educate our politicians and policy makers about the real motorcyclist safety issues and the true solutions to the obscene incidence of motorcycle accidents responsible for the entire panoply of motorcyclist injury and eitiology of motorcyclist death.
Our position is set forth below in our open letter to Michigan Governor Granholm urging her not to veto the motorcycle helmet law repeal bill passed by the Michigan legislature. Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers has offered its assistance also to ABATE and other freedom fighters, specifically to present this position to legislators, Governors and policy makers in every other state in which the wisdom of helmet legislation is being considered. Because we would like to get our position and offer of assistance out to bikers groups as widely as possible, we offer the following letter for inclusion on other freedom fighter and motorcyclist web sites, with attribution to Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers, or if they prefer they may provide a link to this web page, which will be updated periodially with additional position papers on this subject as our position may evolve.
Open Letter To Michigan Governor Setting Forth Motorcyclist Safety Position of Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers In Support of Helmet Law Repeal.Dear Governor Granholm,
I am writing on behalf of Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers which does not have as its mission the repeal of helmet laws. We are an organization the mission of which is solely to improve motorcyclist safety. Unfortunately, in our safety mission we find that politicians claiming to be concerned about motorcyclist safety seize upon helmet laws as a way to appear to be doing something for motorcyclists when in fact, any contribution to the reduction of motorcyclist injury and death is so minimal as to be essentially unproductive, indeed it is counterproductive as it deflects attention from the real motorcycle safety issues. The political tradition of pretending to solve what is certainly a very important public health issue, this obscene incidence motorcycle accidents and the consequent panoply of catastrophic motorcyclist injuries, by myopically and paternalistically focusing on what motorcyclists wear is nothing more than political contrivance. And what we are concerned about is that while politicians continue to so dishonestly focus on what is not the problem, the real solutions to the real problems are ignored, with the effect that motorcyclists continue to be maimed and killed on our streets and highways indeed in obscene numbers.
The first thing you need to understand is that this public health crisis faced by your state and every other state is much broader than the very limited number of deaths which arguably might be avoided by the use of helmets. It is purely political that those who seek helmet laws or resist the repeal of helmet laws focus solely on death statistics. The fact is that motorcyclists suffer every kind of catastrophic injury in motorcycle accidents. They suffer catastrophic internal injuries, injuries which both result in death statistics and those which leave the motorcyclist's health impaired for the remainder of his life. They suffer quadriplegia and paraplegia and other spinal cord injuries which ruin their lives, often confined to convalescent centers, or requiring full time or part time professional nursing assistance. Motorcyclists suffer limb injuries often requiring limb amputation or catastrophic orthopedic injuries which render them unable to continue in their professions as productive members of our society. This broad landscape of catastrophic motorcyclist injury is what defines both your state's public health crisis and the state fiscal impact of caring for these men and women whose often substantial life long medical expense is almost universally uncompensated by the underinsured and usually impecunious auto drivers who by their inattention and negligence cause the majority of the accidents and consequent injuries.
These are the real public health and substantial fiscal issues faced by your state. The death statistics relied upon my those who urge helmet laws are misleading first of all because death can occur as the result of motorcycle accidents for many reasons other than head injury, including most obviously, internal injury, or delayed death or the shortening of one's life expectancy as with motorcyclists who are rendered quadriplegic. The death statistics are also often misrepresented. For example, often quoted are the statistics which focus on the number of motorcyclist deaths rising after the repeal of helmet legislation. But those statistics often fail to account for such variables as the recent steep rise in motorcycle registrations, particularly in the last several years, and the likelihood that this implies that there are a greater number of novice or less experienced motorcyclists who are getting into accidents, suffering the panoply of catastrophic injury, and contributing to the death statistics. In addition, those who report these death statistics, which are truly just unanalyzed compilations of selected raw data, apparently have no interest in discovering whether any of these deaths actually resulted from the motorcyclist's failure to wear a helmet. As noted, these deaths can occur from any of a dozen causes unrelated to head injury. Even with those deaths in which the motorcyclist suffered a head injury, none of those who have compiled these data have followed through to obtain the death and autopsy reports to determine, first of all, to what extent the brain damage could have been prevented by a helmet, and second, to determine whether the motorcyclist suffered internal or other catastrophic injury which likely would have resulted in his life long disability, death or foreshortened life expectancy regardless of his helmet use. Even with regard to deaths among motorcyclists who were not wearing helmets, you need to realize that helmets only serve to reduce the incidence of brain injury and death for impacts of less than 15 miles per hour. In almost every accident in which a death is reported, there is also serious or catastrophic injury quite apart from brain injury which are not accounted for by simply listing the selected raw data on deaths in helmeted riders and those who chose not to wear helmets. There are many more deficiencies in these studies which I would be pleased to discuss with you if you would permit me to speak with you or your staff. But suffice it to say that the death statistics which are so commonly cited are not compiled according to the scientific method, nor are they subjected to statistical analysis, and any legitimate scientist would tell you that as the result of their methodologically errors they unfortunately provide no meaningful information even on the narrow issue whether or to what extent helmets may reduce the incidence of motorcyclist death.
The only way to solve your true public health crisis, which can be accurately measured only by examining the full panoply of catastrophic motorcyclist injury, and motorcyclist death from all medical causes, is by reducing the incidence of motorcycle accidents. If we can reduce the incidence of motorcycle accidents then we can reduce the incidence of every category of catastrophic motorcyclist injury, and among helmeted riders and unhelmeted riders alike.
This is not an unattainable goal. Indeed, it is a goal that hasn't been achieved only because politicians have failed to seize the opportunity to provide the obvious solutions, choosing instead to mislead the public that dictating what motorcyclists wear is the solution.
The first thing you need to understand is that fully two-thirds of all multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are the result of auto driver inattention and negligence, without any fault on the part of the motorcyclist. There is no controversy about this. Every study confirms this. (The remaining one-third are the result of motorcyclist negligence or the combination of motorcyclist and auto driver negligence.)
Most of that overwhelming percentage of motorcycle accidents caused by auto driver negligence results from motorist inattention while entering intersections or turning left at intersections into the motorcyclist's right of way. Again there is no controversy about this.
These facts, unfortunately, are excluded from the motorcycle safety debate as politicians scream hysterically about the need to dictate what bikers wear. Most politicians are in our opinion shortsighted in concluding that there is no political advantage to actually doing something to reduce the incidence of this largest category of precipitant for motorcycle accidents. If confronted by their failures to address the broader safety issue, some, whose staff's prepare a political response, will say that these intersection accidents are the "unavoidable" consequence of the motorcycle's "lack of conspicuity." And they can find support for this false proposition in an unfortunate phrase culled from the first large motorcycle accident survey by Harry Hurt. But it is indeed unfortunate that this phrase has been so oft repeated without critical analysis by those who have political agendas other than to actually reduce the incidence of motorcyclist injury. An additional problem is that the phrase "lack of conspicuity" is actually a term of art which has been mistaken by policy makers and used to advantage by politicians to suggest that intersection motorcycle accidents are the result of the reduced "visibility" impugned to the motorcycle's smaller size. Putting aside the misunderstanding and misrepresentation, the fact is that motorcycles are just as "visible" as cars at the short distance at which a car entering an intersection or turning left at an intersection would pose a threat to the motorcyclist. Motorcycles can stop very quickly and take evasive action much more nimbly than cars so when a car entering an intersection or turning left in front of a motorcyclist causes an accident, the car must turn directly in front of the oncoming motorcycle. Furthermore, since the Harry Hurt study, motorcycle manufacturers uniformly equip their motorcycles with head lamps which turn on at ignition and remain on day and night, so it is likely that oncoming motorcycles are in truth more obvious in the visual field of an auto driver when he enters or turns left at an intersection.
The etiology of intersection motorcycle accidents does not derive from the motorcycle's smaller size; rather, the reason why auto drivers don't "see" motorcycles is a function of what is described in the scientific literature as "inattentional blindness." This is a body of literature which analyzes why people don't see what is readily apparent in their visual field. There are half a dozen factors which are identified in the literature, and again if you would permit me to speak to you or one of your staff I could explain my understanding of the relevant literature or provide references for you and your staff to consider. One of the factors which I have concluded is probably the most potent in leading auto drivers to fail to consciously attend to motorcyclists in their visual field is "relevance." One gross aspect of the lack of "relevance" many auto drivers attribute to motorcycles is derived from the auto driver's perception that motorcycles don't pose a risk to them in the same way that an oncoming car, truck or bus would pose a risk to them when entering an intersection or turning left into the path of one of these larger vehicles. There are solutions specific to modifying that aspect of "relevance" including by specific conscious task oriented auto driver education, discussed below. In addition, the auto driver's perception of the "relevance" of motorcycles can be enhanced by penalty legislation, for example, by providing for drivers license suspensions or potential jail terms for reckless inattention which results in serious motorcyclist injury or death.
I've been told that many politicians might find such penalty legislation "politically unacceptable," as it calls for imposing upon the majority for the benefit of a vulnerable minority; but this public health crisis truly affects us all, including by the fiscal impact upon the state and all of the citizenry associated with this obscene incidence of the panoply of catastrophic motorcyclist injury caused by auto driver inattention.
But accepting that politicians must be sensitive to undermining their majority political base, a substantially less effective solution, although a good step in the right direction would be general penalty legislation for any serious injury resulting from reckless inattentive driving, if combined with a well funded public relations campaign specifically focusing upon the vulnerability of motorcyclists to serious injury, perhaps combined with photographs or film of a motorcyclist being carted off to an ambulance and the auto driver being carted off to jail.
I haven't yet touched upon what we consider to be the centerpiece of our proposal for effectively reducing the incidence of motorcycle accidents and hence for reducing all manner of motorcycle injury. Before I do that permit me to describe some the secondary contributory factors to the two-thirds of motorcycle accidents resulting from auto driver negligence.
As noted above, the majority result from auto driver inattention at intersections. Other factors include lane change accidents and rear end accidents. When an auto driver turns into a motorcyclist riding or passing in an adjoining lane it is commonly because the auto driver doesn't know that his rear view mirrors have holes in them large enough to obscure a motorcyclist in an adjoining lane of traffic. The auto driver doesn't appreciate that he needs to turn his head into his rear view blind spot to look for a motorcyclist riding or passing in the adjoining lane. Motorcycle rear-end accidents occur both as the result of inattentional blindness, including the sub-issue of "relevance" discussed above, and because auto drivers simply do not realize that motorcycles can stop much more quickly than cars so that they need to provide a greater distance when following a motorcycle.
Now, to the real solution to your public health crisis, because the real solution is one readily within the powers of the Governor. Lets first make plain the real problem. The problem is auto driver ignorance of motorcycle safety issues, and in particular, auto driver ignorance of the motorcycle accident avoidance strategies which they must employ for the protection of their vulnerable two-wheeled brethren.
The solution to ignorance is education. Specifically mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues and motorcycle accident avoidance strategies. First, modify your auto driver education booklets and written materials to include comprehensive information on motorcycle safety issues and motorcycle accident avoidance strategies. Second, include in the written tests which your auto drivers must take to obtain and renew their drivers licenses again a comprehensive list of motorcycle safety questions. Third, because of the singular importance of assuring that auto drivers fully appreciate their responsibilities to avoid endangering vulnerable motorcyclists, adopt a policy to deny driving privileges to any auto driver who fails to answer correctly even one motorcycle safety question.
This same type of information and testing process should be included in all other auto driver safety programs, including, for example, state auto driver education and instructional materials, the written materials provided in connection with driving schools, including those attended by drivers as an alternative to paying traffic violation fines, as well as every other curriculum for your state's auto drivers, such as those required of individuals convicted of DUI or other serious driving offenses.
I would be pleased to consult with your staff or Department of Motor Vehicles staff in developing appropriate motorcycle safety information materials and motorcycle test questions. Obviously, I would be pleased to do this without charge. I have some specific recommendations which might not be obvious to others, which are derived from my research in this subject matter. For example, since inattentional blindness is an "unconscious" phenomenon, it is necessary to provide auto drivers a specific conscious task to perform when engaging in the behaviors during which they pose a risk to motorcyclists. Just for the purpose of example, auto drivers might be informed that the speed of oncoming motorcycles is more difficult to gauge, and so they need to take the time specifically to assess the speed of an oncoming motorcycle before entering an intersection or turning left at an intersection when a motorcycle is within the visual field. It might appear "common sense" that the auto driver has to "see" the motorcycle before he can engage in a conscious task with respect to the motorcycle. But that is not accurate. When one has a conscious task to perform specific to a particular object in the visual field, in this case oncoming motorcycles, this actually has the effect to raise to conscious attention the object in the visual field upon which the task must be performed.
Bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks. Mr. Sutton responded, "Because that's where the money is."
Those who focus on helmet legislation are robbing convenience stores, or to put it more plainly "convenient stores." There is no real "money" in convenience stores. It is not the scientific evidence that meaningful reduction in the incidence of the panoply of accident related motorcyclist injury can be achieved by helmet legislation, as politically "convenient" as it may be for politicians to pretend, in speeches to the majority, that they are doing something for the protection of our vulnerable minority, by paternalistically dictating what the minority should wear.
Your state "bank" is bulging at the seams with the caskets of dead bikers and gurneys filled with those who have been rendered catastrophically paralyzed, amputated, orthopedically wrecked, and disabled as the result of motorcycle accidents caused by the inattention and negligence of auto drivers.
If you veto the helmet repeal bill, all you will do is guarantee that this issue remains the focus of our legislative efforts in perpetuity, because our good freedom fighters will never give up their good fight for our personal dignity and our right to chose. By failing to take this unproductive helmet law debate off the table, by vetoing your legislatures bill to strike your helmet law, you will also tragically make it impossible for those of us concerned about the broader and much more important motorcycle safety issues to bring about a debate on the real motorcycle safety issues, and obtain real solutions to your real public health and real state fiscal realities.
Please, for the sake of your state's motorcycling community, show us that you are not just a political Governor, but a governor who actually cares about this peculiarly vulnerable minority of your citizenry and refrain from perpetuating the helmet debate with a veto of your good legislature's helmet law repeal. And then, let us turn to your real public health issues and work together to achieve the true solutions.
Thank you for your consideration, and if I can be of any further assistance in the above regard, please do not hesitate to contact me.
"M-A-D-D Ray" Henke Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers