What is "Black Thursday"? It is the annual legislative event held by ABATE of Washington at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. It has traditionally been held on the steps of the Capitol, with members of the motorcycling community meeting inside with their legislators.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
What is "Black Thursday"? It is the annual legislative event held by ABATE of Washington at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. It has traditionally been held on the steps of the Capitol, with members of the motorcycling community meeting inside with their legislators.
Monday, December 22, 2014
We are entering a new legislative session, and the fight to amend the helmet law is about to start. It is up to each of us to do our part to protect our rights. Understand it will take commitment and dedication to restore our liberty to choose for ourselves when and whether we do or we don't wear helmets when we ride. I know that there will be those who oppose our right to exercise our liberty, and we must unite to prevail against them. By law now, we are a 'class of people' who may not be profiled by law enforcement due to their belief that we may do something. It is up to us as a community to provide ample proof of our opponents continuing violation of state law by their behavior, and demonstrate that their stereotypical belief of who and what we are will not be tolerated.
What other constituency comes to the Capitol to exercise their right to speak with their legislators, and is confronted with higher than normal law enforcement presence? We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the attempted domination by law enforcement at the Capitol. There is no reason that we should be forced to pass between law enforcement and police dogs while exercising our First Amendment Right to peaceably assemble. The entire purpose of Black Thursday is to exercise our First Amendment Rights to gather together peacefully, and petition the government. Why then must we be then have our Fourth Amendment Rights violated by law enforcement?
I have come to the conclusion that the real reason that the Washington State Patrol opposes amending the universal helmet law in our state, is because they would lose their prime pretext for their continued ability for profiling of the motorcycle community. It is up to us to drive home the fact it isn't about their ability to gather intelligence on the motorcycle community, but rather about our right to exercise our liberty to choose what level of protection is acceptable to each individual motorcyclist.
Think about it...
Catch you on the road sometime...
Sunday, December 21, 2014
In late 1990's, it came to light that the Washington State Patrol had been using a pamphlet called "Biker Basic-101" to train its officers on how to deal with "bikers" during traffic stops. The title of the very first section gives the WSPs opinion of motorcyclists; "Bikers are dangerous." With that blatant bias as the focus of their training, the WSP was given a permanent injunction in Thurston County Superior Court. The judge; the Honorable Richard D. Hicks, ordered an immediate injunction "against the State of Washington and Washington State Patrol from using the document entitled "Biker Basic-101" as an outline for trainng Troopers or other officers and further enjoins the Washington State Patrol from adopting that document as a whole as a WSP policy, field instruction, or guide." The order was filed on December 6, 2002.
As supposed enforcers of law, one would expect the WSP to obey a Superior Court injunction. Instead, they ignored it. As years went by, the WSP continued to use the pamphlet as a training guide. As was testified to under oath nearly a decade later by WSP troopers during a court proceeding which resulted in a $90,000 award to a member of one of the motorcycle clubs in Washington after being stopped and arrested. All of which was caught on the Troopers own dash camera. Including the Troopers own statement that if the biker he had pulled over didn't remove his helmet, he would be; "Charged with...with...'something'."
Biker Basic is all about gathering intelligence on the "biker" community. The second line of that first "Bikers are dangerous" section states that "Bikers are attempting to gather intelligence too. They just don't write the tickets." The entire concept behind this pamphlet is how to make what is called a "pretextual stop". What is a "pretextual stop"? It is where the law enforcement officer wants to gather information about possible criminal activity, but doesn't have any probable cause, let alone a warrant to investigate any such suspected activity. So they use a "pretext". In "Biker Basic-101" the second section is entitled; "Identify the violation". The only subsection is a list of the three main motorcycle violations; helmet violation, exhaust, handle bar height. There is the "pretext" the WSP was training its Troopers to use to stop "bikers"in order to then try to gather intelligence without a warrant.
This pamphlet is filled with inflammatory and degrading statements and shows a total lack of respect for the motorcycling community. In the section on how to stop a "single" biker the first subsection is called "If you can have two Troops, have two". The statements in that section are all short and to the point. All show a callous disregard for due-process. "Two against one is always nice, three against one is better." "If you can legally issue an infraction or citation do it." (If the Trooper couldn't legally issue a citation or infraction, where is the probable cause for the stop? There isn't any. Even though there may be a "pretext" for making the stop, the real purpose of the stop is to gather intelligence and harass the biker if at all possible.) "If you can legally impound the motorcycle or book the biker do so." Then, as if the author of the pamphlet was trying to cover their ass, they added the following sentence as an after thought to that subsection; "But make sure you do the same to other bikers (be uniform and fair)."
Okay, so the WSP trained their Troopers to basically trump up a highway stop against bikers in order to pull them over. Then to keep the "bikers" on their bikes with the motors off and the kickstands up, as the Trooper "gathers intelligence" from the "biker" about their Clubs. Afterward, IF they can find a legal reason to impound the bike and arrest the biker they should do it. The WSP used this "Biker Basic-101" to violate the Constitution.
This mindset continued for years, and many believe it still exists in the WSP. The old "the ends justify the minds" mindset.
That might explain why, in 2009, at the Capitol campus, the WSP were crawling through the brush, and walking through the parking lot recording the license plate numbers of every motorcycle on the Capitol campus during the annual ABATE legislative day called "Black Thursday". No probable cause at all, just blatant intelligence gathering. No warrant, no other vehicles, just the motorcycles in the parking lot. Sounds like a clear violation of the 4th Amendment to me. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself, here are a few photos taken from two videos taken during that "Black Thursday".
Saturday, December 13, 2014
The following is written as a rebuttal of the testimony at the last Washington State Senate, Transportation Committee hearing on what was then Senate Bill 5143 (SB5143) in January, 2013. The same groups oppose virtually any motorcycle bill, especially any form of motorcycle helmet amendment or repeal. Some, it would appear have more of a visceral gut level, than on a thoughtful and well reasoned opposition. Read on, and let me know what you think. As I look forward to the upcoming legislative session in 2015, I can see these same people and arguments being used again, as they always seem to do. They key is to turn their negative objections into a positive support for our bill. I'll list each of the opposing witnesses, and key points of their testimony, which I will then try to convince you is wrong, and why.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
We are currently in a fight with the government. This isn't an armed struggle, but one of civil power against government power. One that in the end will bring us together to seize our right to exercise our personal freedoms once more. It does no good to gather on the steps of the capitol and ask for our rights. We have our rights. It is the government that is preventing us from exercising those rights. In this fight, we have to get them to realize we aren't going to surrender and go quietly into the night. We are going to keep coming back, and not giving up. We will not cower down, and kow-tow to the governments power.
That is why we have come back year after year fighting for the same thing. Even though others question our sanity in not giving up the fight. Asking why we don't take on easier struggles, and give up on the hard fight. Because if we ever did give up and quit, we would never make any meaningful gains again. To give up the good fight, and take the easy way out, we would never truly be strong enough again to fight for what we truly need.
We would be little more than sheep, being content with what we are allowed to have. No longer really trying to get what we should have. Not even really caring before too long. That is where the real loss lies. Once we lose the freedom to exercise our rights, we may never get them back. You don't get rights from the government. Even the Founding Fathers knew that; "...Certain unalienable rights endowed by their Creator..." Rights are bestowed upon man by his Creator. However you, as an individual see that Creator, that is where your Rights come from. The government has, if not controlled by the people, the power to prevent its citizens from exercising the rights they were endowed with. But the government does not give Rights to its citizens.
That is why we must never give up the fight. Even if it seems useless, or impossible. Only by giving up does it truly become impossible. As you fight, you struggle to be free of the shackles the government tries to control you with. But when you give up, and quit fighting, the shackles of control are locked upon you. Then they become even more difficult to be free from.
Think about that. Then maybe you will realize why we continue to struggle and fight for every Right we have. To protect them from being restricted, and fighting to regain those we are being prevented from exercising.
Catch you on the road sometime...
Friday, December 5, 2014
"Lane Filtering" is the process of motorcycles riding between lanes of slow, or stationary traffic, and "filtering" forward. It is not only legal, but expected in most of the world. While not codified into law, it is accepted in California. Although it is up to the individual police officer to decide whether you are doing it 'safely' or not.
It has been shown in several studies done in Europe (where it is considered to be the only way to get around on a motorcycle in a city), that lane filtering not only lowers the travel time of motorcyclists in congested traffic, it also helps to ease that congestion. When motorcycles aren't taking up space sitting statically in traffic that could be filled by a larger vehicle, traffic congestion has been shown to be less. It has also been shown to be safer for the motorcyclist. According to the MAIDS (Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study) of 2009, lane filtering is six times safer for a motorcyclists than sitting in traffic. Also according to MAIDS, only 0.45% (that's right, less that one-half of one percent) of motorcycle accidents in Europe were related to lane filtering maneuvers.
A recent study for the US Dept. of Transportation compared; California, Texas, and Florida motorcycling accident rates. With similar year 'round riding seasons, similar riding demographics, California still showed a 20% lower rate of fatalities due to rear end collisions. California is the only state in the US to currently allow lane filtering. With riders not having to sit stalled in traffic, and open to being rear ended by inattentive drivers, California's motorcycling community is allowed a significant safety margin by being able to filter through traffic.
Even a 2010 report by the Oregon D.O.T. had good things to say about lane filtering. Although some of the conclusions were obviously made by someone who isn't very familiar with most modern motorcycles, it still shows the positive benefits of lane sharing.
Some of the benefits mentioned in the Oregon D.O.T. report include the following:
1. "In addition to contributing to congestion reduction by the capacity/size differential, motorcycles help to free additional space when lane-sharing. When motorcycles move from the travel lane to the center line space is created."
2. "One of the early benefits recognized for lane-sharing was to help keep air-cooled motorcycle engines from overheating. When kept in motion, the engines are cooled by the air flowing over the fins, but when stopped there is no mechanism for cooling."
3. "Conversely to safety concerns with lane-sharing, a potential safety benefit is increased visibility for the motorcyclist. Splitting lanes allows the motorcyclist to see what the traffic is doing ahead and be able to proactively maneuver."
One of the main concerns about lane sharing, seems not to be about the motorcyclist being able to ease traffic by filtering through traffic, but to be about automobile drivers becoming startled by a motorcycle passing between lanes and then moving the car resulting in a possible sideswipe and turn-into-path accident. So in other words, if a automobile driver isn't paying attention (like that EVER happens) and is startled by a motorcycle passing between lanes, they may suddenly turn their car to block the path the motorcycle just took. This is my personal opinion here; and not backed up by any statistics or studies, just my many years of experience operating many different types of vehicles on the roadways. But it has been my experience that if a driver is startled by a motorcycle moving between lanes at no more than 10 mph faster than traffic, that same driver would be "startled" any vehicle coming up alongside them. It means they aren't checking their mirrors, or they aren't checking them often enough. Or, they are pissed off because the motorcyclist is "cutting" past the line, and not "waiting his turn". A little road rage rises up, and the driver moves to block any other motorcycles from passing him...or they pull the old open the door trick. Which by itself is illegal here in Washington. At the same time, if a bike is blasting between lanes at a high rate of speed, they aren't acting in a "safe and prudent manner" anyway and are asking for trouble.
Well now you know a little bit about lane filtering. If you think the idea of; better commute times through congested traffic, lower possibility of being rear-ended, and actually easing traffic is a good idea, then you like the idea of lane filtering. If that's the case, and you live in Washington state, let your legislator know how you feel.
Catch you on the road sometime...
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
It seems that at every hearing regarding motorcycle issues in the Washington state legislature, and especially if it is dealing with amending the mandatory helmet law, there is one conspicuous opponent ready to testify against the bill involved. That opponent is none other than the Washington State Patrol. The same WSP whose flagrant profiling of motorcyclists not only cost the state over $90,000 in one case alone, but also actually lead to the nations first Motorcycle Anti-Profiling law. The same WSP that attempts to get around that statute by using the states mandatory helmet law to instigate traffic stops that then become fishing expeditions for any information relating to criminal code violations. Your DOT sticker isn't clearly visible, and you look like a possible Club member or supporter, then you're probably going to get pulled over, whether that DOT sticker is there or not.
They don't seem to want to understand that there is no Federal law preventing you from removing or covering over the DOT emblem after you have purchased the helmet. This is the same WSP that requires the DOT emblem to be visible, though they won't admit it, because that is the only way they can tell if a helmet is DOT compliant or not. Public Information requests have shown; they have no list of compliant or non-compliant helmets, they have no records or lists of recalled helmets either. So, if that DOT emblem (many are painted on now, so I don't want to call them a "sticker") is on, and clearly visible, you're probably good to go. But if it's not there, or not clearly visible, that trooper (as well as other law enforcement who follow the lead of the WSP) just may pull you over if he feels you may be able to give him brownie points for pulling over some "biker".
This same WSP that tries to get around the Motorcycle Anti-Profiling law instead of trying to enforce it, just doesn't "get" the whole helmet issue. Because they don't want to. They really couldn't seem to care less. If they did, they might actually see just how lame they make themselves look when talking, as they do both in word and in print, about DOT "approved" helmets. NHTSA, the same federal agency that created the DOT helmet standard (FMVSS-218) has for at least two decades if not longer, been stating that the DOT doesn't "approve or reject" helmets. It is a self-certification made by the manufacturers (who don't even need to test the helmet before certifying it) that a helmet is "DOT Compliant".
The WSP doesn't get, or doesn't seem to care, that a significant portion of the motorcycling community feels it is their right to choose whether wearing a helmet is worth the possible risk of injury that may be caused by that helmet. That helmet isn't a safety device, if it was, insurance companies would offer discounts to riders who wear helmets. Or insurance rates would be much lower in the minority of states that still require the wearing of helmets. Guess what; they don't, and they aren't. The helmets are just a money making scheme for law enforcement, and to a far lesser extent to the state tax revenue ( you only buy the helmet once and pay sales tax on it), but if the state revenue was involved the WSP would be pushing to pull you over to make sure you had a three year old or less helmet. Not just whether or not it has a DOT emblem on it. What is really sad to me is the fact that on most other continents, you aren't allowed to wear a DOT helmet because they don't think it is safe enough.
The WSP just doesn't get it. Whether in a discussion, or in their own pamphlet about "bogus helmets", the WSP still refers to helmets with the DOT emblem as "approved". They even go as far as to describe what a helmet should have in order to be an "approved" helmet. None of which has anything to do with the Federal standard. Besides, if you're wearing a helmet matching the description of a helmet in the WSP pamphlet, and it doesn't have that DOT emblem in the proper spot, you're probably going to get a ticket sooner or later.
The WSP doesn't get that almost two-thirds of DOT compliant helmets that were tested between 1980 and 2008 ( I don't have any newer data at this point) FAILED to meet the minimum standards to deserve that DOT on them. The WSP doesn't get that the same helmet (if it ever did meet the standard) no longer does after three to five years due to it being worn. If you drop your helmet from waist height, or off the seat of your bike, it no longer is considered "safe" to use, and should be replaced. None of that matters to the WSP. All that matters is that sticker..Ooops, I mean emblem being on the helmet. Unless they think they might be able to get some information that could lead to a future or ongoing investigation (without a getting a warrant like they are required to), then they are just as liable to still stop you saying they couldn't see the DOT emblem. But it only takes a few seconds and they quite possibly will begin asking you about things unrelated to any traffic stop or infraction.
So, maybe that is why the WSP is always right there in a hearing to amend or repeal the mandatory helmet law in opposition. If they lose the ability to make traffic stops about DOT "approved" helmets, it will become that much more difficult for them to try to get around that pesky Motorcycle Anti-Profiling law. That helmet law leads to a possible fount of information about groups and organizations the WSP and other law enforcement may decide they want to keep an eye on.
It certainly isn't to "protect and defend the Constitution" as so many of my fellow motorcyclists and other Americans have sworn to do. It is a tool the WSP and other law enforcement agencies use to exercise control of power over the motorcycling community of Washington state. The WSP doesn't get, or care, that we simply want to exercise our right to choose what we feel is truly safefor ourselves as individual American citizens. The WSP doesn't get, that by always opposing an amendment to the mandatory helmet law in Washington state, they are opposing the rights of the citizens to be free to choose how best to protect themselves.
Personally, I have about four or five DOT compliant helmets, and one or two non-compliant helmets. Not one of them has ever been of any use in protecting my head from an injury during a motorcycle accident. If I don't crash and hit my head, that helmet on my head is irrelevant...except for the weight, and fatigue that comes from wearing that weight, on my head and neck. Maybe the WSP should get behind crash avoidance training with the same gusto they go after a helmet without a clearly visible DOT emblem. Preventing a crash is much better than surviving one you didn't have the skills to avoid. But the WSP doesn't get, or care, about that either.
Catch you on the road sometime...
Monday, November 24, 2014
I'd really like to talk to you for a few minutes, if you don't mind, about why you think I need to wear a motorcycle helmet when I think there are times I would rather not. The last thing I want to do is to get into an emotional or passionate argument with you. That doesn't get either of us anywhere, and the "We'll have to just agree to disagree" is fine when it doesn't involve peoples lives. So please, hear me out. After I'm through, let me know what you think about the subject. Let's get a real conversation going. A civil, courteous, and honest discussion about our Right to choose for ourselves, what we as individuals feel is the proper level of protection for ourselves.
You have told me it is for my own safety, and that helmets save lives. While that tends to be the foundation for much of the discussion for motorcycle helmets, do they really? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the division within the US Department of Transportation that is responsible for administering the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) that a mind numbing amount of motor vehicle equipment must meet, "estimates" (their word, not mine) that motorcycle helmets are "37% effective" in saving lives.1 That is a pretty poor effectiveness rating.
There is also the misconception that many people, including the Washington State Patrol seem to be under, that the US Dept. of Transportation (DOT) "approves" motorcycle helmets. The DOT will be the first to tell you that they do not approve, or disapprove motorcycle helmets. They set the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS-218 in the case of motorcycle helmets) that gives the minimum testing standards that helmets must meet to be certified as being "DOT compliant". Here is what most people either don't know, or don't realize; a motorcycle helmet doesn't need to be tested by its manufacturer before the manufacturer certifies it to be "DOT compliant". They just have to make a good faith judgement that it would meet the tests. That good faith judgement is good enough to be legal. That is, until one of the independent laboratories contracted by NHTSA to test helmets randomly purchases a couple helmets of a particular make and model for testing. If the helmet passes the tests, great. If not, the manufacturer is notified their helmet didn't pass, and why it didn't. But there is no public recall announcement made, and even law enforcement aren't notified of the helmets which are no longer compliant with FMVSS-218.
According to NHTSA documents, between 1980 (when President Reagan was inaugurated) and 2008 (when President Obama was inaugurated) the independent labs tested a total of 1,540 previously certified DOT compliant helmets. Of those helmets tested, 945 of them FAILED. That is a 61.4% failure rate. Over 61% of the certified DOT compliant helmets tested over that 28 year period failed. Or put in other words, only 38.6% of the helmets tested met the minimum requirements the government set.2 These are not cheap helmets either. Major brand names like Nolan, Pro Police, and other well known and respected helmet manufacturers.
There is no way to determine visually if a motorcycle helmet is DOT compliant or not. That requires strict laboratory testing, which results in the destruction of the helmet. Don't take my word for it, that comes from NHTSA, and they are the ones who wrote the standard.
To prove my point, take a look at the two helmets above. Both were manufactured by same company, both were until recently for sale by the same company. One is still currently sold as a DOT compliant helmet, and the other was sold until recently as a "novelty" helmet. Can you tell which one is DOT compliant?
OK, now that we've covered at least a large portion of the DOT related points about whether helmets need to be mandated or not, let's get down to more serious points.
The highest speed impact required for a helmet to withstand within required specifications is 13.4 mph. That is the speed a helmet reaches falling from 72 inches (6 feet). At speeds greater than 13.4 mph it has been statistically shown that there is an ever more significant trade-off between risk of head injury and neck injury to the motorcyclist. Above the speed that DOT mandates testing done, the risk of severe neck injuries grows significantly.3
Another point to be made against the mandating of motorcycle helmets was stated quite simply by Professor Harry Hurt (author of the Hurt Report on traffic safety) during a 1992 interview with KABC-TV in Los Angeles. He stated during that interview; "Once impact speeds get up around 25-30 mph, no helmet in the world is going to save you." That comes from the author of what is broadly considered the most authoritative study on the subject of traffic safety of the 20th Century. A report that is still quite influential to this day.
That comment comes quite plainly into perspective in a couple of ways. One is the Goldstein Study states that the risk of fatality increases from 7.1% at 40 mph vehicle speed to 36.3% at 60 mph. So, at highway speeds, you have a 36.3% chance being killed just because of the speed of the crash. The other point comes from a compilation of data from FARS (Fatal Accident Reporting System) and the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission. Those figures showed that over 53% of fatalities between 2006 and 2010 in Washington State speed was a contributing factor. So the helmets in those crashes, that were certified to withstand a 13.4 mph impact, were irrelevant.
Another government study from NHTSA showed that between 2000 & 2002, 81% of fatal motorcycle accident victims died from injuries other than head injuries. Only 19% of motorcycle fatalities had fatal head injuries. So in 80% of those crashes, helmets were irrelevant.
So let me try to wind this up, and I am still not covering many of the reasons people are demanding the right to choose whether we want to wear a helmet or not.
1. NHTSAs own statistics show that helmets are only 37% effective (assuming all helmets are DOT compliant).
2. Over a 28 year span, 61.4% of the certified DOT compliant helmets tested failed.
3. At speeds over 13.4 mph being involved in a crash while wearing a helmet your risk of serious neck injury increases significantly.
4. By a huge margin, the vast majority of motorcycle fatalities nationwide died from non-head related injuries.
5. To paraphrase Professor Hurt, motorcycle helmets become ineffective by the time impact speeds reach 25-30 mph.
One last thing, in 2012, Michigan repealed their helmet law. By 2014, the number of motorcycle accidents had dropped by approximately 20%. The number of motorcycle fatalities also dropped by about the same rate. As did the number of incapacitating injuries. All of these statistics dropped by 20% or more AFTER Michigan repealed their helmet law. Ironically, the number of motorcycles registered in the state, and the number of motorcycle endorsements rose by nearly the same percentage. So let me make that clear; more riders, on more motorcycles. yet the accident rate, the fatality rate, and the incapacitating injury rate ALL dropped AFTER Michigan repealed their helmet law. Now tell me, why are we here in Washington still mandated to wear them, and not given the CHOICE whether or not to do so as best fits our own experience and judgement?
Catch ya on the road sometime...
1 NHTSA 2012 Traffic Safety Facts 2012 Data
2 a compilation of NHTSA documents from 1980-2008
3The Goldstein Study "The Effect of Motorcycle Helmet Use on the Probability of Fatality and the Severity of Head and Neck Injuries"
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
We need only to look at the situation in Australia today to see what could become of the motorcycle community in the US in the future. It was originally only Queensland that was enforcing, and even escalating Australias anti-Club, anti biker laws, "anti-association" laws. But now its neighbor to the south, New South Wales has begun to enforce the laws against the free association of individuals. Even though they are touted as "anti biker" laws, they are laws against "associating" with anyone who has been charged with a serious criminal offense. The way they are being enforced in Queensland makes it unlawful for family members to publicly spend time together if one has a criminal record.
This week, a news report states that the Rebels Motorcycle Club, an Australian branch of the American Club by the same name, is having their national run in Sydney. The New South Wales (NSW) police have already put the word out that if the members from Western Australia (WA) cross the border into NSW, they risk being arrested under these "anti-association" laws. The penalty is a three year jail term. For being the member of a group the government doesnt't like, and freely associating wiht other members of the same association. It's not guily BY association...it is guilt OF association.
The Australian government is already doing, to some extent, what the US government is trying to do in its case against the Mongols Nation in California. I hope wholeheartedly that people in both countries see how heinous these laws are. As well as the lengths some people will go to exploit the power the government tries to use against its people. I support the efforts of the Mongols Nation here in the US in their fight against the ATF, and also wish to express my support for the Rebels MC in Australia as they no doubt will enjoy their national run. Regardless of the hostile law enforcement arrayed against them. During the Rebels last national run in Perth, nearly 1,000 Club members came to town. With no major problems reported. Misinformation, and exploited fear used by law enforcement can threaten the civil rights of peoples around the world. In Australia today, and maybe in the US tomorrow.
To the Rebels MC members, where ever you ride. Keep on riding, and fight for your rights. You have my respect.
Catch you on the road sometime...
Saturday, October 18, 2014
It is a question of physics. Of kinetic energies and Newtons 'Laws of Motion'. The equivalent speed of the fastest impact a DOT compliant helmet has to survive is 13.4 MPH That is the speed a helmet reaches in free fall from a height of six feet. That is the speed only of the helmet dropping in a "guided" free fall, without any additional energy associated with the fall. If you factor in even a relatively low horizontal speed, impact speeds can rise dramatically. NHTSAs own independently contracted testing facilities have shown that from 1980 to 2008 over 61% of manufacturer certified DOT compliant helmets failed to passed testing.
Newton's First Law states; "An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." This is what happens inside your head (whether you are wearing a helmet or not) when your head impacts an object. Your skull will at the least, experience a rapid deceleration, or possibly a deflection to a different direction. However like all else following Newtons First Law, everything inside your skull will continue moving in the same direction and speed it had been traveling. Until it collides with the inside of your skull. Where it will then be compressed under the inertial effect, until Newtons Third Law forces your brain and other soft tissues to recoil back. This continues until the kinetic energy of the impact has been absorbed. In even simple impacts some G Forces can exceed 600 units of Gravity (G's). That is 600 times the force of gravity on a stationary object. With such forces, soft tissue, blood vessels, and brain matter can easily tear and be destroyed . Whether you are wearing a helmet or not. Motorcycle helmets can help to dampen the effects. But they cannot nullify the laws of physics. It is true, that helmets have been shown to have a statistically significant effect on head injuries. There are however, other effects of motorcycle helmets that should be considered.
The study by Dr.'s Cooter and David of the Australian Craniofacial Unit of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, "Motorcyclist Craniofacial Injury Patterns" found that "objects worn at impact on the craniofacial region (skull) may influence significantly the final fracture pattern, and this may be detrimental for some motorcyclists wearing full-face helmets." It seems that motorcyclists wearing some of the popular full face helmets while involved in crashes have, as a result of their design, "sustained fatal skull base fracturing in the absence of significant facial trauma". The helmets did their job, and protected the face and frontal lobes of the brain. But they did so at the cost of causing fatal basal fractures of the skull, and traumatically severing the pons from the medulla. Both conditions in and of themselves fatal.
These same helmets are DOT compliant, and meet the FMVSS-218 standard. However, their use exposes the rider to a significantly higher risk of fatal injuries do to anterior impacts in a crash. These helmets, which are among those mandated by the legislature to be worn by motorcyclists in Washington State, have no warning about the possible fatal consequences that accompany the use of these helmets. The States mandated use of these helmets could actually lead to fatalities in otherwise survivable crashes. Without knowledge of the risk involved; how many motorcyclists purchased these helmets, then died because of the helmet they were forced to wear to protect them?
Imagine the injuries to a person that has just been hanged, and had the knot of the noose positioned below the jawbone. The injuries are almost identical to those suffered by a significant number of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes wearing rigid full face helmets. The real tragic irony as shown by the Cooter Study, is that those wearing more flexible full face helmets, and even open face helmets, while suffering severe facial fracturing, had a much higher rate of surviving, and a lower rate of fatal skull fractures and brain damage.
The Goldstein Study, many in the effort to eliminate the mandatory helmet law seem to take at least an initial dim view of because of its findings that helmets do afford a signifcant effect on the severity of head injury. However, if one looks closer, the study goes further and acknowledges other risks that wearing helmets in a crash have an increased effect of. One of which is; that above an average speed of 13 mph (the highest speed used in impact tests to meet FMVSS-218...coincidental?), "helmet use has a statistically significant effect which increases the severity of neck injuries." So at impacts beyond 13 mph, helmets have been shown to "exacerbate neck injuries."
Since the impact speed of 13 mph is the speed the helmet reaches falling from six feet, it is obviously a low speed impact. Roughly the same as a six foot tall man falling down and hitting his head as he walks down the sidewalk. Yet the thought of mandating helmets be worn by pedestrians is ludicrous to even be suggested. Yet to mandate the use by motorcyclists traveling at a much greater speed to wear a helmet that has only been certified by the manufacturer to be able to withstand an impact of 13.4 mph seems just as ridiculous. Especially when one realizes that the two leading causes of fatality on motorcycles, are the riders speed (kinetic energy), and blood alcohol level.
Again from the Goldstein Study; "an increase in the crash speed from 40 to 60 mph increases the probability of death from 7.1% to 36.3%." Even factoring in glancing blows to the head at those speeds, the impacts are still going to be greater than 13.4 mph, which is all the helmet is designed to withstand.
Even Professor Harry Hurt, author of the famous "Hurt Report" on traffic safety stated in an interview with KABC TV that; "As impact speeds reach 25-30 mph, no helmet in the world is going to save you." It is simply a question of physics. Given enough kinetic energy, a helmet isn't going to save your brain from being damaged due to the extreme inertial and gravimetric forces at play. Man may be able to violate mans law, but we cannot violate the laws of physics.
As a final point a NHTSA study showed that between 2000 and 2002; of all fatal motorcycle accidents, only 19% suffered fatal injuries to the head, while 81% suffered no fatal head injuries.
Now, tell me why Washington State does not allow motorcyclists to take responsibility for our own safety choices. If for example; some types of "DOT compliant" helmets put the motorcyclist at a higher risk of fatal skull and brain injuries, and if the leading cause of fatality on motorcycles is excess speed, with over 61% of "DOT compliant" helmets tested failing, then why are we even forced to wear a motorcycle helmet that is only suppose to protect us from the impact speed of a man falling to the ground from a standing position?
Catch ya on the road sometime...
Saturday, October 4, 2014
There is a motorcycle club in California that is undergoing a legal attack by the federal government. This isn't exactly newsworthy in and of itself, because the government has regularly tried to "crush" the clubs by using different statutes over the years. Each time they fail, it is only a matter of time before there is another attempt, using the lessons learned from the previous failures. This time however, the lesson was given by the presiding judge, and taken to heart by the government. Now I am not a legal expert, an attorney, or anything like that. I am merely stating what little I have been able to glean from this situation, and what it seems to mean to me.
Originally, the Feds indicted several members of the Mongols Nation, and the government began to seize items with the Clubs logo on it. The idea behind this was to destroy the Clubs sense of unity by seizing all the common identifying markings that belonged to the Club. Basically, anything that had the Clubs patch on it was open to seizure. After a member had personal property that he had bought with his own money seized, he sued in court. He had not been indicted, yet his property was being seized. The judge agreed, and overturned the seizures. But then, in its remarks as the Court rendered its decision, the Judge told the government how to be able to get around the problem that they had found themselves in. Not to indict individual members, but the entire Club as a "criminal association".
Which is what the feds did. They indicted not people, but the organization, the association. Now it is irrelevent whether or not you were indicted. The Club as a whole has been indicted. The federal government is trying to seize all items with the trademarks of the Club. Trying to seize and destroy the Club by taking its identity. Whether it is a members private property or property of the Club, no longer matters. It it has the Clubs logo or other trademarks on it, there is a possibility it can be seized to hurt the Club. Whether it is a vest with Club patch, a bike with the Clubs logo, or a car or truck. If it has the Clubs insignia on it, then it appears to be liable and open to seizure.
Why is this such a big threat? There are a few reasons. I'll go over some of them as best I can. Then think about it for yourselves, and put yourselves in the position of having to defend yourself from the government seizing your property because it has the trademark of an association that a government agency deems to be a problem to be eliminated. This whole case is about the government trying to seize control of all identifying trademarks of the group. The symbols that the group uses to distinguish itself from all others. The symbols that the association uses to identify its members from non-members. So the government is trying to make it illegal to associate with others who wish to assemble together for a mutually satisfying purpose...or so it appears to me. But wait a minute, doesn't the Bill of Rights provide for the Right to "peaceably assemble"?
If the government is going after the "association" as a criminal entity because of possible criminal activities of a group of members, and declaring all members criminals by association, does this not violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution? If this standard was applied to law enforcement, how many police forces in the nation would be free from having all their members property with a police trademark seized? Not many I am sure.
Also, by indicting the organization, the federal agencies are trying, it appears to me to circumvent the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution giving citizens "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The feds are trying to seize anything that bears the trademark of the organization in order to destroy the identity of the group. Using as probable cause the fact you are a member of the group to issue warrants to seize your personal property because it has the organizations logo on a patch, or a sticker in the window, or painted onto the metalwork of your vehicle. Seize enough property, and members may not wish to associate with the organization anymore...thus destroying the group.
Can you imagine the uproar in todays society if these tactics were used against say, Green Peace? Seizing the property of those people showing the logo of Green Peace on their clothing, their cars, their homes. Or for that matter, if another organization was deemed too dangerous for the taste of some government agency who indicted the organization because some of its members may be invovled in some form of "criminal activity". Can you imagine the NRA becoming the target of such tasctics? The NRA logo is a trademark, as is the logo of Green Peace, as is the Club patch. If the government is allowed to; indict an organization for the activities of some of its members, and seize all property bearing the trademarked logo, then what is to stop the government from doing it again? Having set the legal precendent of being able to violate the First Amendments right to "peaceably assemble", and the Fourth Amendments Right against illegal search and seizures, what is to stop them from proceeding further and restricting or ignoring other cicil rights?
Have you ever really known the government to willingly give up power and control? This fight isn't about one motorcycle club. This fight is about the right to belong to any association, or organization, or fellowship you wish to. Without fear of your property being seized by a overzealous police agency that doesn't approve of what your group stands for. As I stated before, how many people from Green Peace would continue to support the organizations often law breaking activities and protests, if a government agency indicted the organization as a 'criminal entity' and put their own property were at risk of seizure simply because it bore the Green Peace logo?
No organization can be 100% good, or 100% bad. Because people are not 100% good or bad. As long as the government is allowed to continue with this sort of behavior, the future looks grim. The only way we can fight this, and keep it from happening again, is by supporting the club in their court fight. Writing to your Congressman, or steate Legislator won't do any good. It is all in the hands of the Federal Courts. Since it was a Federal Judge who instructed the agency on how best to create their case, it is going to be an uphill fight. If you want to support this fight to help ensure our freedoms and liberties, go to the US Defenders website, and learn more about this problem. You can also read more about this case, and the legal ramifications of this can of worms if it is allowed to be opened, by reading the information about this case involving "Intellectual Property Rights" and how the ATF is trying to destroy those rights.
It doesn't matter what patch is on your back, on your bike, your truck, or your home. If the government wins this case, and a government agency is allowed to say that group is a criminal association, you could lose it all. Think about it. The old saying; "United, We Stand...Divided, We Fall" I don't think has ever been as appropriate as it is now.
Catch you on the road sometime...
Friday, September 26, 2014
Just last week, someone asked me why I wanted to get rid of the mandatory helmet law in Washington State. Here's why; I feel that every motorcyclist has the right to choose the level of risk they wish to accept, based on their own experience and knowledge. As the ones actually using the helmets, we should have the choice whether we consider the risks of wearing a helmet acceptable or not. Don't be quick to say there aren't risks to wearing a helmet, there are. Let me explain what I mean.
In an impact, let's say your bike comes to a sudden and abrupt stop. Newtons First Law states: " An object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless an external force is applied." The bike stops, you're going to keep moving. If the head and helmet don't strike anything, the G forces being exerted will force your head to continue in the direction you were traveling. This continued motion creates great stress on the neck. That additional three pounds of weight on your head, when the G forces are added, can easily become thirty pounds or more. The musculature and ligaments can be torn, and vertebrae can be broken by the sudden and intense forces being exerted. Helmet manufacturers are aware of this, and some even admit it, such as Racers Market. One of their executives made this statement in an email; "The speed of impact if the helmet actually hits something is important. Likewise, the speed of impact with a heavy helmet when you don't hit something with your head is important; as the heavier helmet stretches your neck more, with a risk of neck injuries."
We have all experienced this effect. Ever stepped on the brake and felt yourself move forward? That is the inertia of your body continuing to move forward even thought the vehicle you're in has slowed. The harder you hit the brakes, the more severe the effect it. The same thing is happening inside you as well. When your head suddenly stops moving because it has impacted an object, your brain, and all the tissue inside continue to move. Those moving organs and tissue move until they are forced to stop moving by an external force (like your skull) slamming into it and rebounding back as the organs and tissue decompress. All this moving and rebounding can cause damage. In a wide range from minor to severe. Even without fracturing your skull. Wearing a helmet, does not stop this internal movement. It may diminish the movement caused by a glancing blow, but a direct impact will still have the same results. Since Newton's First Law is inviolate to the best of our knowledge at this time.
All this comes down to impact speed. The higher the speed of impact, the more damage can be done due to inertia and internal motion. Even without fracturing the skull, the brain and connective tissues can be severely damaged due to this process. Some helmets have been shown to have a direct correlation to higher rate of fatal brain damage and skull fractures. A study by Drs. Cooter and David from the Australian Craniofacial Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital shows that full face helmets with rigid face guards; while protecting from facial fractures, tend to have a higher rate of basal skull fracturing, and fatal brainstem damage than other helmets. Even open face helmets had a significantly lower rate of brain damage, although facial fracturing was quite a bit more severe and traumatic. It is beleived that the fracturing of the face actually helps to disperse the forces impacting the head, allowing for much lower levels of inertial motion and corresponding damage to the brain and other soft tissues. Follow the link to see the study results for yourself. Cooter Study
As you can see, wearing a helmet carries with it no real assurance of surviving an impact to the head. The inertial effects of the head and helmet not impacting anything during a crash, can be quite catastrophic as well. Visualize if you will, your body impacting the side of a car at 25 mph. Your shoulders are at the roof line of the car, and nothing is there for your head to strike. Since the car is solid, your body comes to a sudden and jarring stop. The orgasns and tissues inside continue to move until restricted by other orgasns and tissues inside. But with nothing to stop its inertial motion, your head continues its sideways motion. The G Forces adding weight to your head and helmet, making them feel several times heavier. The force of that weight stretching and straining muscles and tissue, and the extra weight of the helmet only exascerbates the issue. Neck injuries, sometimes quite traumatic ones can result from just this sort of impact. This can result in a 'hyperflexion' of the neck, and even cervical fractures.
NHTSA proudly proclaims that helmets are only "estimated to be 37% effective". So basically, helmets are effective in just over 1 out of every 3 crashes. Does that mean that NHTSA knows that nearly the inverse ratio of fatal accidents are attributal alcohol and excess speed? With the higher impact speeds involved there is little a motorcycle helmet can do to prevent trauma. The sheer magnitude of the G Forces involved creating such intense inertial pressures within the skull. Even if the helmet does work sufficiently enough to prevent a skull fracture, the physics of motion show that the brain and its corresponding tissues will receive excessive damage.
At low speeds, and with glancing blows, helmets seem to be quite effective. But as impact speeds rise above about 13 mph, there is "a statistically significant effect which increases the severity of neck injuries". As shown in the Goldstein Study.
Those are just a few things to think about when considering whether you support a riders right to choose whether to wear a helmet themselves or not. It should be up to the individual to decide. Either way, they'll have made the choice that is right for them. That is what the whole fight is about. The right to choose for yourself, or be told to wear a helmet "for your own good".
Catch you on the road sometime...
Thursday, September 25, 2014
The regulating arm of the US Dept. of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has publicly stated that helmets are only "estimated to be 37% effective". Yet we are still mandated to wear them?
Statistics show, that between 1980 and 2008, over 1500 helmets were tested for compliance by independent laboratories contracted to NHTSA. Motorcycle helmets are only tested to a average impact speed of 13.4 mph. That is the speed they attain dropping them from 6 feet above ground. 61.4% of them failed the tests. Yet we are still mandated to wear them?
Even Harry Hurt, the author of the most quoted report on motorcycle crashes and helmets has stated; "When impact speeds get up to around 25-30 mph, no helmet in the world is going to save you." Yet we are still mandated to wear them?
The Cooter Study out of Australia, showed that full face helmets, with rigid face guards actually had a significantly higher rate of fatal skull fractures and brain stem injuries. Yet we are still mandated to wear them?
Even helmet manufacturers have stated that in a crash, if your head doesn't impact something, the extra weight of the helmet can cause neck injury. Yet we are still mandated to wear them?
The Goldstein Study, has shown that as impact speeds rise above 13.4 mph, there is a marked increase in the risk of severe neck injury. Yet we are still mandated to wear them?
Think about it. Wouldn't you prefer to be able to choose for yourself whether your life was worth the risk of wearing a helmet?
Catch you on the road sometime...
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
In January of 2014, a couple of groups of motorcyclists in Washington state tried to get a bill passed in the legislature that would have removed all mention of FMVSS-218 from the helmet law (RCW 46.37.530). Their reasoning was, that since they didn't feel they could affect the full repeal of the helmet law, they would "nibble away" at it. I wonder if they thought of the ramifications of "nibbling away" at this particular portion of the law.
In my opinion, removing FMVSS-218 from the law is a bad idea. Whether you remove the wording stating that it is the standard for the definition of a helmet from the state law, it remain the Federal standard that helmets are required to meet. So removing the explicit mention of the law won't change what is considered by the state a helmet. But what I can foresee a few bad things happening if that bill (which I have been told by a few people they are planning on trying to get passed this legislative session) gets passed. I'll try to explain what they are here:
1. Since paragraph 3 of RCW 46.37.530 will then say; "For purposes of this section, "motorcycle helmet" means a protective covering for the head consisting of a hard outer shell, padding adjacent to and inside the outer-shell, and a neck or chin strap type retention system." The WSP will look at it as describing what they oppose as 'novelty helmets' and exercise their legal duty under law to "adopt and amend rules" to bring the helmet law back into line with what they want. The WSP will create a WAC (Washington Administrative Code) that brings the RCW in line with their concept of what a helmet is. Without legislative oversight or discussion, since it is already the WSP authorized ability to "adopt and amend" the rules of the laws.
2. With FMVSS-218 removed from the law, all the case law fighting against it becomes moot. No longer can you claim the law is unconstitutional because it has FMVSS-218 as its base (which the Washington Court of Appeals found in State v Maxwell, and State v. Sanaski). The fact that without FMVSS-218 as a standard, the state can create its own arbitrary guidelines of what constitutes a helmet. "Roadside Testing" suddenly may become possible (which with FMVSS-218 it isn't), and the amount of discretion law enforcement must take before making a stop now, all goes away. If a cop sees you riding by, and doesn't like your look, he would be able to use the idea that your helmet may be in violation to stop you. Once he has you stopped, because he now would have the probable cause of a helmet check to pull you over, what else can he right you up for?
3. As it stands now, having FMVSS-218 in the RCW allows motorcyclists to fight a helmet ticket with great effect. Since it is relatively easy to show that on most occassions law enforcement can't tell the difference between a DOT compliant helmet and one that isnt. If law enforcement can't tell, then where was their probable cause for stopping you? If you remove FMVSS-218, you take away your ability to fight the ticket on those grounds. It leaves the motorcyclist at the discretion of what the law enforcement officer 'thinks' is a proper helmet. By removing FMVSS-218, you leave it to the WSP to make the rules and create a new WAC, because the standard definition of a helmet certainly aren't going to be in the RCW.
So, if you want to give the State the ability to make the rules, support the idea of removing the Federal standard from the law. If you would feel more comfortable forcing the State to follow the US Constitution, and State law, oppose the efforts to remove FMVSS-218 from the law. It is all about Freedom folks...Freedom for the citizens, not Freedom for the State to do as they wish.
Come talk to me about this sometime. There is almost always an unintended affect when removing something from a law. Words are everything, and a slow deliberate process will help. Even if you support a bill, do your best to show how it can be used against what you want. When you get to the point that it does what you want, without ill effects, then support it. But don't support it because it seems like a quick way of getting something done, and looking like you are having a profound effect on life.
Catch you on the road sometime...