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From the Tallahassee Democrat
By JOHN YAUKEY and ROBERT BENINCASA, Gannett News Service
An increasing death rate for motorcyclists has sparked renewed debate over helmet laws. Safety advocates say such laws save lives and money, but bikers who oppose the laws say they represent a threat to personal freedom.
By JOHN YAUKEY, Gannett News Service
As motorcycles have become more nimble and powerful, stuntriding has gained in popularity. "Stunters" acknowledge that what they do is dangerous, but they say their sport is moving off the street and into arenas and other venues where traffic isn't an issue and medical services are close at hand.
By JOHN YAUKEY, Gannett News Service
Motorcyclists who oppose helmet laws say helmets impair vision and hearing and can make riding a motorcycle more dangerous. But studies overwhelmingly show that requiring bikers to wear a helmet reduces medical costs.
By JOHN YAUKEY, Gannett News Service
There's an overwhelming variety of motorcycle helmets out there, but focusing on some essential criteria makes it easier to narrow the field. Above all, don't forget to look for that DOT sticker on the back.
and it goes on and on and on................ see it hereOUR RESPONSE TO THE EDITOR, THEIR FORUM AND THEIR REPORTER:
In responding to reports such as this it is usually with mixed emotions. I am conflicted as to whether the story should be addressed on the notorious and proven fallacies of NHTSA statistics and research models. Or, as one who wears a helmet should this be addressed from an individual rights perspective. Or is it more effective to point out the utility of helmets, but the futility of helmet laws.
A major consequence of this obsessive tunnel vision on helmets is going to insure that more lives will be lost during the debate. Furthermore, how will those who obsessively focus on helmets react when, if helmet laws were re-instituted, they learn that such laws will do little to reduce the carnage that occurs on our public roadways. My fear is that this constant focus on helmets takes away from the real problem, i.e, the cause of the crash and not the result. Did not our mothers tell us an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The plain and simple truth is that helmets will not reduce crashes. They may change the injury dynamic, meaning more motorcyclists will die of other injuries. Or be confined to a lifetime in a wheel chair suffering from any number of incapacitating injuries that a helmet can not prevent. Reducing crashes in the only sure way to save lives.
In most of these studies and reports the emphasis is placed on the failure of the motorcyclist to take the appropriate precautions to avoid a crash and then to avoid significant injury because of the crash. I found little in your report addressing the motorists who violate the-motorcyclist right of way resulting in a crash that results in death.
Despite years of motorcyclist crying out to anybody that might listen I found nothing in your report addressing the hazards of distracted drivers? We now know that use of a cell phone while driving increases that drivers likelihood of being in an accident by 4x's, equal to that of driving while intoxicated. Now add to that GPS systems capable of showing slide shows and videos to the driver and you have a catastrophe waiting to happen.
We have the data. We have sent it to numerous media outlets asking for a fair hearing. Yet we are consistently discounted in favor of the latest propaganda in favor of helmets. This not only unfair but irresponsible journalism. True investigative journalism should look at the issue from all perspectives.
Unless of course the journalistic endeavor is designed to pursue a particular agenda. If that is the case, in the interest of free and honest reporting, the reporting party should state right up front their position and their bias.
My hope would be that in light of the last eight years of lies and misstatements perpetrated by our elected officials that reports and studies from bureaucracies that gave us “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” would not be taken without at least some investigation.
That is the obligation of a free press! To hold the government responsible for the accuracy of it's words.
So at the risk of being further discounted I will forward some observations regarding some of the points made in your report.
FROM MAJOR FINDINGS AT A GLANCE:
“About 42 percent of motorcycle riders killed in accidents between 2002 and 2006 were not wearing helmets.” Can that not be read to say that 48% of the motorcycle riders killed were wearing helmets.
Your report points out the increase in MC fatalities from 1997 (before the Florida Helmet law modification bill was passed) to 2006 more than doubled. It does not mention the percentage increase in motorcycle sales and registrations (which has been demonstrated to be a poor indicator). Nor does it refer to any statistics tracking any increase in Right of Way violations where in the “other vehicle driver was at fault “. More importantly it does not mention the dramatic increase in cell phone use by drivers which in study after study has been proven to be as dangerous as “driving drunk”.
• States with some of the highest fatality rates in 2006 were concentrated across the Southeast. Some of these states require all riders to wear helmets, but they also have long riding seasons that expose bikers to more risk over time.
This would be as expected and therefor a valid consideration in an argument involving Helmets.
• Half of motorcyclists killed between 2002 and 2006 lost control and crashed without colliding with another vehicle, underscoring the inherent risks involved in riding a motorcycle.
Again this is not relative to a discussion of the use of Helmets. It is relevant to a discussion regarding rider training and education. No one denies there are inherent risks in motorcycling. Just as there are inherent risks in going to the hospital where more people die yearly as result of physicians failure to wash their hands.
“Motorcyclists account for about 2 percent of vehicles on the road but 10 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to federal statistics.”
This is a frightening statistic. However is it meant to be an indictment of lack of helmet use, the dangers inherent in riding a motorcycle, or the higher likelihood that we will be hit by distracted drivers?
• When a motorcyclist did collide with another vehicle, the biker hit the other vehicle — rather than getting hit by it — nearly three quarters of the time.
This is not only misleading but irresponsible reporting. A motorcycle hitting another vehicle is not proof of fault. It can just as easily be proof that the motorcyclists right of way was violated.
How we analyzed data from fatal motorcycle accidents
During that time the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) was basing most of its data on universally accepted flawed Vehicle Miles Travelled statistics. Even the the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Insurance Industry has called this method of accumulating data as being flawed and has encouraged NHTSA to improve or abandon this method of gathering data. A major flaw is that many states do not even report the figures they are required to report. For example, Sturgis, South Dakota, home of one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world for years reported no motorcycle miles travelled in that state.
Bikers, helmet advocates debate medical costs
A significant trend that should have been mentioned in this discussion was the increasing role of vehicle design that has been shown to play a significant role in the severity of crash injuries. As more SUV's and Large Trucks take to the road, accident dynamics change. In in the past there was the likelihood a rider would be thrown over the vehicle or at least the “head” would not be the part of the body making major impact. With the changing dynamics of vehicle design we are finding that riders are more at risk of major impact resulting not only in head injuries, but massive blunt force body trauma resulting in death.
The other issue here however is that this issue should not even be a part of the discusion. The price of Freedom is high. It is not to be traded easily for public convienence.
The right helmet can save a life
There is a major court case currently occurring in California over this very issue. The Department of Transportation does not certify helmets. It requires manufactures attest to the fact that there helmets meet certain specifications and it is the manufacturer itself that affixes the DOT sticker to the Helmet.
Dot stickers can be purchased in numerous places and affixed to any helmet.
Most helmet companies advise that if you “drop” your helmet, you return for inspection to determine it's worthiness or purchase a new helmet?
The Department of transportation does not test helmets. That is the job of the manufacturer. Occasionally the Dept. will purchase helmets of a shelf and send them to an independent testing laboratory. If the helmet fails a recall is issued. I have never seen a helmet recall.
Again, I will not argue that there will be occasions where a helmet may save your life. However the lives saved by a helmet pale in comparison by the lives that would be saved by addressing distracted driving. Yet I see no in depth reports addressing this issue. Can someone at the the Tallahassee Democrat tell us who are usually the fatalities of the crash why if you are truly concerned about safety?
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