Bikers Rights to Motorcyclist Safety SITEMAP
Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers Joins ABATE Utah's Efforts To Persuade Salt Lake City Mayor Not To Enact Municipal Helmet Ordinance.
From the Motorcyclists Safety Perspective We Argue That There Are Approaches Better Calculated to Reduce the Landscape of Motorcyclist Injury Resulting From Multi-Vehicle Motorcycle Accidents.
We received the call from Bill Evans, President of ABATE Utah, for national support for ABATE's efforts to resist a threatened Salt Lake City municipal helmet ordinance. As with all such requests, we consider that we offer a perspective complimentary to the bikers rights perspective. As a motorcyclist safety organization we can argue that helmet legislation is ill-calculated to reduce the landscape of motorcyclist injuries sustained in accidents. Motorcycle accidents result in quadriplegia, paraplegia, other serious spinal injuries, debilitating internal injuries, catastrophic orthopedic injuries and limb amputations, none of which can be reduced by use of a helmet.
Below we set forth our correspondence to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson thanking him for his interest in motorcyclist safety, and setting forth our Motorcyclists Against Dumb Driver's arguments that the Mayor refrain from helmet legislation in favor of municipal laws better calculated to reduce the obscene incidence of motorcycle accidents and hence the full panoply of resulting motorcyclist injuries.
News Update From Bill Evans, Utah ABATE: Mayor Anderson Has Advised That As the Result of the Correspondence of Many Bikers And Biker Organizations Nationwide, the Mayor's Office Has Taken His Municipal Helmet Ordinance Proposal Off the City Agenda.
Our Correspondence to Salt Lake City Mayor Anderson
Honorable Rocky Anderson,
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 are considering adopting a municipal ordinance which would require that motorcyclists wear DOT compliant helmets. I interpret your intent in this regard to provide for the safety of motorcyclists, and we applaud your intent, but must take issue with your means.
I am certain that you will hear from other organizations and individuals concerned with preserving individual freedom, and 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. Consider that the many thousands of skiers who come to Utah each year to enjoy your world class skiing would also benefit from the use of a helmet, and yet you respect their dignity and freedom to make their own individual choices.
I expect that you will also hear from other organizations that will suggest to you that helmet legislation is a subject properly for the Utah State legislature, not for individual municipalities to seek to govern independent of uniform state policy. Indeed, I am unaware of any municipality in the United States which has attempted to do this. I suspect that there may well be legal implications, particularly where a municipality seeks to govern a subject matter of statewide concern, which has come before the state legislature previously, and which has resulted in a different resolution as a matter of state policy. Indeed, there may have been legislative trade offs or compromises which led to the resolution of state policy which municipalities should be circumspect about undermining. Indeed, this is a state issue, as is recognized throughout the United States and for good reason as it concerns the right to travel freely throughout the state, across municipal political boundaries. An additional concern is fair notice, as it is certain that many Utah motorcyclists and motorcyclists from other states will be traveling through Utah and Salt Lake City with the assumption that state law will govern, only to be trapped by a municipal ordinance contrary the well known fact that Utah is a "free state."
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 substantial reducing motorcyclist injury, and we will suggest that there are a number of other, much more effective means of reducing the incidence of motorcyclist injury.
First, the issue of motorcyclist safety has been traditionally skewed politically to focus only on the evidence motorcyclists deaths can be avoided and the severity of motorcyclist head injuries can be reduced by use of a helmet. We will refrain from correcting the general misconception other than to say that helmets have limited utility and may also contribute to other injuries, such as cervical spinal injuries, and it has been suggested that they may also contribute to a greater incidence of motorcycle accidents, due to a number of factors, including, inter alia, interference with hearing or interference with peripheral visual perception. There is substantial discrepancy in the science, much of which is conducted without consideration for the scientific method, and substantial political discrepancy in the conclusions that are drawn from the science. But we accept that for some riders involved in some accidents involving a window of forces applied to the head, helmets would provide same measure of benefit. But helmet laws are simply not the panacea for motorcyclist safety that they have been traditionally portrayed.
Motorcycle accidents result an entire landscape of motorcyclist injuries, quadriplegia, paraplegia, other spinal cord injuries, debilitating internal injuries, catastrophic orthopedic injuries and limb amputations which cannot be avoided or reduced by the use of a helmet.
What all motorcyclist injuries have in common is that they are caused by motorcycle accidents. So if you want to reduce the incidence of the panoply of motorcyclist injuries, we have concluded that the strategy must be to reduce the incidence of motorcycle accidents.
Two-thirds of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are caused by the negligence of an auto driver, 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, most importantly the work of Mack & Rock on "inattentional blindness," 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. These include mandatory auto driver education on motorcycle safety issues including specific information on the driving strategies which motorists must use for the protection of motorcyclists. We would be pleased to describe in more detail our recommendations in that regard too. We also urge motorcyclist specific right of way legislation providing serious penalties for motorists who violate a motorcyclists right of way and injure or kill him as a way of reinforcing the "relevance" of the motorcyclist.
Again, many of these suggestions may require state government involvement but there are some which can be accomplished on a municipal level, and it would be wonderful for Salt Lake City to take the lead. Motorcycle awareness campaigns have been recommended by NHTSA and Governors nationwide, and if properly funded to reach a significant percentage of the population can lead auto drivers to "expect" the oncoming motorcyclist and avoid right of way violations. Some have offered creative solutions such as "Watch for Motorcyclists" signs at key intersections.
If Salt Lake City provides auto driver education courses in its schools, or if it has municipal courts which commonly order those convicted of traffic offenses to driver education schools, what you might consider on a municipal level is incorporating motorcyclist safety information in your driving school curricula.
Finally, you may wish to consider municipal legislation to curtail the use of cell phones while driving. 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. The accidents which these motorist cause kill motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians and other auto drivers. It is an important issue for all of your citizenry. But please understand that only comprehensive cell phone legislation will curtail the dangers. Handheld cell phone legislation is worse than no legislation at all. Drivers will simply switch over the hands-free devices, and the science demonstrates without controversy 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.
In contrast to helmet legislation, there are good reasons for cities and counties to adopt cell legislation. For one, those who drive while involved in cell conversation are responsible in large part for city traffic congestion and more lengthy commutes, including the city workforce. Those motorists driving under the influence of cell conversation take 19 percent more time to recover flow of traffic speed following each braking episode. While this may not be a problem for Utah's rural areas, you may consider that it does play a substantial part in Salt Lake City's traffic congestion and the length of your municipal citizenry's commutes providing the rational basis for municipal legislation.
There is much that Salt Lake City 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 that you will consider our other proposals for improving motorcyclist safety.
Very truly yours,
Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers