8 Ball In The Wind

Friday, July 25, 2014

Numbers Game

I have been going over motorcycle reports and studies as part of my duties as Legislative Affairs Officer for the Elk Country Chapter of A.B.A.T.E. of Washington.  If it wasn't such a serious subject, I would almost find it amusing how several of the key studies that are used to foist the Federal governments desire for a universal mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists on the riding public.  As is typical of many statistical studies, it depends on what variables you choose to compare as to whether you will get the results you desire.  Let's be honest about this, if you are putting in the effort to do a statistical study of whether helmets are effective or not, you probably already have a point of view you want to demonstrate is correct with your statistics.  Government agencies are no different.  Except maybe in the fact that they want their statistics to support the rules and regulations they themselves create and promulgate throughout the country.

Take for example, the CDC.  Somewhere along the way, the bureaucrats at CDC decided that their sphere of power and influence went beyond 'disease control' into all areas of health and safety.  Any area that they felt had some connection to being able to affect the life and death of citizens.  Being the good bureaucrats they were, they decided to look into the 'effectiveness' of mandatory helmet laws.  Several studies had shown a significant reduction in the rate of head injury when wearing a helmet during a crash.  CDC ran their own study back in 1990 comparing the fatality rates in mandatory and voluntary helmet use states between 1979 and 1986.  What they did was actually come up with two separate rates for head related deaths from motorcycle accidents.  One, showed virtually no significant difference between the two sets of states death rates.  The other, showed a significant difference, higher death rates in the voluntary helmet states.

How did they do that, you ask?  Well, if you didn't, I did.  What they did was divided the number of head injury fatalities associated with motorcycle crashes by the states population (Voluntary helmet states tend to be a bit more rural, and have lower populations.  So changes in the fatality rates divided by a smaller population would show a larger change).  As a result, they came to a finding that the death rates in voluntary states were nearly double that of mandatory states (An average of 11.4 fatalities per million in voluntary helmet use states.  Compared to an average of 5.5 per million in the mandatory use states.)

The CDC study also divided the head injury fatalities of motorcyclists by the number of motorcycle registrations in each state.  The numbers came back looking quite different.  There was virtually no significant difference between the two sets of states (An average of 3.5 fatalites per 10,000 registered motorcycles in the voluntary states compared to an average of 3.0 fatalities per 10,000 registers motorcycles in the mandatory states.  That is only a difference of 0.005%.)  Since the CDC is so adamant about motorcyclists wearing helmets to prevent head injuries and dying from them in crashes, they used the population based rate which gave them the more dramatic differences to 'prove' their conviction that all motorcyclists should be mandated to wear helmets.

To further demonstrate how blindly the CDC is devoted to mandatory helmet laws, Congressman Thomas Petri wrote the CDC asking why they were involving themselves in  the effort for a national universal helmet law.  In a response, dated January 27, 2014 the CDC stated that; "CDC approaches motorcycle safety in the same manner as other public health issues, such as heart disease, cancer, and asthma."  The letter went on to state that in 2010, 41% of fatalities on motorcycles were not wearing helmets.  Followed by a paragraph on how helmets can reduce the life long costs of even non-fatal head injuries.

I do not argue with the contention that motorcycle helmets have been shown to reduce head injuries.  However, I also know that studies have shown that the benefits of reduced head injuries begin to trade-off with an increase in the risk of neck injuries above a certain speed.  What is that speed?  It is in the range of 13mph.  Thats about the same speed that FMVSS-218 requires motorcycle helmets to withstand impacts of (13.4mph).  So above the speed of about 13mph, the increase in risk of neck injury due to wearing of the helmet would seem, to me anyway to offset the desired effect of the helmet.

Since two of the major contributors to fatal motorcycle accidents are speeding and drug or alcohol impairment (Between 2006 and 2010, 53.3% of motorcycle fatalities had speeding as a contributing factor.  While 53.7% had drug or alcohol impairment as a factor.  No doubt many had a combined influence.), the real world speeds of fatal crashes tend to be more than a tad higher than 13.4 mph.  But that is a fact very few studies seem to make known.  While at low speeds, a helmet will more than likely protect you from head injury in a crash, after about 13 mph you become ever more at risk of severe neck injuries.

One of the most famous and influlential studies of the 20th Century on traffic and motorcycle safety, and the benefit of helmets was no doubt, the Hurt Report.  Authored by Professor Harry Hurt, it is still regarded as one of the best arguments for mandatory helmet laws ever produced.  During a 1992 television interview, Professor Hurt made a comment I don't think would sit well with many if not most of the safetycrats in our government today.  He said simply; "When impact speeds get up to 25-30 mph, there's no helmet in the world going to save you."

With that thought, I'll bid you all a fond 'adieu', and let you ponder the governments numbers game.

Catch you on the road sometime...




A Deadly Helmet?


With all the research I have been doing of late into this entire helmet issue, one of the things that surprised me was a study by a couple of high ranking Dr.'s in Australia.  At first, I thought it was going to be a report on how "effective" helmets were.  Man, was I wrong.  If you get a chance, check it out yourself.  It is available online (for free I might add), and is called; "Motorcyclist Craniofacial Injury Patterns" by Drs. Cooter and David.

What their study is about is helmets and head injuries.  It splits itself into two groups.  Those with survivable head injuries, and those with fatal head injuries.  All of who were wearing helmets.  The ones wearing open face, or full face helmets with flexible face-bars, received extensive facial fractures.  BUT, (and this is a pretty big "but") a significantly lower rate of brain injury.

The motorcyclists who were wearing full face helmets with rigid face bars, however, showed a much lower rate of facial fractures.  BUT, (and this is another big "but") they had a MUCH greater rate of fatal skull fractures, and fatal brain injury.

Basically, the rigid face bar, which is connected to the chin strap, imparts the impact force through the chin strap forcing the base of the skull to fracture.  In a very similar manner as to when a hangmans noose is placed under a persons jaw when they are hanged.  The brain damage due to this sort of fracture tends to be extreme and fatal.  So while the rigid face bar of the helmet protects your face from being shattered, it has a much higher rate of killing you by ripping your brain apart.

Apparently, the more flexible face bars, and open face helmets, allow your facial bones to shatter.  However, the fracturing of your face, while EXTREMELY painful, spreads out and absorbs much of the impact force.  Leaving your brain with a greatly reduced risk of damage.

Don't believe me?  Check it out for yourself.  If you have to wear a helmet when you ride, it may just give you something to think about when you buy your next one.

Catch you on the road sometime...


Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm Back!!


Well here I am, back from several days on the bike.  Spent some time with some good people, and got to meet a few more face to face for the first time.  It wasn't without some drama, but all of the motorcycle kind.  Two different bikes, both developed oil leaks, and both "broke down" within a couple of blocks of each other.  Whats even better, both riders ran into each other at the same auto parts store.

Typical Columbia River Gorge weather in July...hot and windy.  With several small fires in the area, everythying was pretty tense when it came to fire.  So no campfires at night, or even burning charcoal briquets.  So cooking had to be done on the old campstoves.  The gusting 50mph headwinds heading west through the gorge for about 40 miles or so were a pain in the ass, but otherwise I had a Hell of a good time.

Got a few decent pics, too many to post all of them.  But here is a few, just to give you an idea of the fun.  I'll be back to focussing on the helmet issue, and any other issues that get my goat from here on.  But for now, enjoy.

















Catch ya on the road sometime...




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ROAD TRIP!!




I'll be heading out on a road trip/camping trip with some friends, and their "Garage Built, Sportster Powered, Death Traps" for a few days.  Heading over to eastern Washington as a base, and riding out from there.  So needless to say, I won't be posting any blogs for a few days.  Have a good time everyone, and I'll be back after I roll home again.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Do Motorcyclists Really Want A Road Guard Certification?




While at a recent meeting of ABATE of Washington Board of Directors, there was a presentation made about the "Road Guard Bill" presented to the legislature in January. After reading the Bill, and hearing the claims made by its proponents I questioned whether they had really thought this through. Some of the claims made about the Bill appear to be groundless. Since there was nothing in the Bill stating even remotely what was being claimed. There was no option other than to go to the Washington State Patrol or local law enforcement and request they perform road guard duties (which they do not perform for free). Only then, IF they refuse to do so, may a "certified" road guard perform their duties. If this Bill had become law, it would have been a misdemeanor,[potentially] punishable by jail time up to 90 days, or a fine up to $1,000, OR BOTH (RCW 9.92.030).


Since the proponents of the Bill referred to a similar law enacted by the state of Minnesota in 2012, as an example of how such a law could be created here in Washington, let's take a look at what that law would require. Please realize, that even some 29 months after the law was enacted, Minnesota is still in the "rulemaking" phase. Here are a few of the rules created for this new Minnesota law (emphasis added):


7422.0200 subsection 1(D) requires Road Guard Certificate holders to "obtain consent from the chief of police, or the chief's designee, of any city of the first class through which the group is proceeding".


7422.0200 subsection 1(E) requires Road Guard Certificate holders to "notify each statutory or home rule charter city through which the group is proceeding".


7422.0200 subsection 3 requires "the motorcycle group ride must be an organized gathering of motorcyclists of at least 20 motorcyclists that:





A. is sponsored by an entity that has liability insurance in force for all participants and organizers of the motorcycle group ride.


B. follows a route in accordance with the notification provided.


C. is riding in daytime hours only.


So, let's do a quick review of what you just read. Shall we?


1. The organizers have to "obtain consent" to pass through a 'first class' city, and notify the smaller cities and towns. So under this type of law, your group ride has to ask permission from the police in the larger cities, and inform the smaller ones of your route.


2. Organizers of the group ride have to have liability insurance for all participants and the organizers of the ride in effect before the run starts (An additional cost to organizers)


3. Must follow the route without changes. How many times have you been on a run that was running late, or had for some reason to change its route during the ride?


4. Can only ride in daylight.






Here are the requirements for being allowed to be a Road Guard Certificate holder according to 7422.0300:


1. A 5 year driving record must be reviewed by the commissioner.


2. No more than 2 moving violation convictions within the last two years.


3. No "impaired driving incident" for five years.


4. No "Reckless" or "Careless" driving for five years.


5. No "Vehicular Homicide" conviction (one would hope not).


6. Must be able to carry on a normal conversation at a distance of 5 feet without hearing aid.


7. Must meet the vision requirements to obtain a license (seems obvious)


8. Must have mandated insurance on their motorcycle.


This all seems relatively benign. However, after you have earned your certificate, you would be required to allow the government to review your driving record annually, and to submit a copy of your driving record if you are not licensed in Minnesota.


Failure to meet and maintain ANY requirements of the law after you have been certified will result in the suspension of your certification.


A road guard MUST provide a "breath sample" whenever law enforcement "has reason to believe" the road guard is under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. Grounds upon which 'reason to believe' may be based include:


1. Facts or statements provided by the road guard.


2. Drivers license record and accident record.


3. Court documents, or police records.


4. Facts which the law enforcement officer has personal knowledge.


5. A blood, breath, or urine test indicating the presence of alcohol or controlled substance...or a test refusal.






Still want a road guard law like this in Washington? Now we can take an abbreviated look at SOME of the gear you would be required to carry if the Minnesota model was enacted here in Washington. You would have to carry the following items on your bike to use in the performance of your duties:


18 inch octagonal "stop paddle".


A communications device with which to contact law enforcement (a cell phone that can send and receive text and emails is accetable).


Plus, you will have to wear high visibility, retroreflective pants and vests (or jacket), as required in ANSI/ISEA 107-2004. Which means your helmet will be required to have a retroreflective strip visible from 360 degrees.


That is a lot of restrictions, liability and cost, to be able to road guard a group ride. Do we as motorcyclists really wish this sort of thing here in Washington state? I heard a comment during the meeting that "a lot of motorcyclists in the state want a road guard bill". Since then, I have been asking motorcyclists across the state that question. The responses I have received have all been virtually identical. They want to be able to perform road guard duties without getting a ticket; but they don't want to deal with the costs, restrictions, and liabilities of being forced to be certified and insured to perform the duties they have always performed anyway. Just something to think about.






Catch you on the road sometime...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Social Burden


I find it hard not to be insulted when people revert back to the knee jerk position that because motorcyclists get so horribly injured in a motorcycle accident that we become a burden to society.  Such a burden in fact, that we should have our freedom to choose what level of protection we use when we ride governed not by our own experience and training, but by society's illinformed paternalistic control.  That is the key point, control.

Even though Washington state is proud to consider itself a very liberal state in many areas, it still happily tries to control it's citizens.  Look at the Rights that Washington state protects, and it becomes more of a puzzle to see the Rights it ignores.  We have here in Washington the Right to; choose to marry who we wish (regardless of gender), use medical (and even more recently recreational) marijuana, enjoy some of the most strongly worded privacy Rights in the country.  Yet we do not have the RIGHT to choose whether to wear an unnatural weight upon our head when riding motorcycles.

Because there is a false fear that we will inevitably crash, and then our medical bills will then become a burden on society.  In a way, I find this offensive as well.  It is certain that over time, we will crash given enough time and miles traveled.  But to be told that when we crash, if we aren't wearing a helmet, we will become so incapacitated that we will become a burden on our families, and society in general.  What a load of rubbish.  While I am not disputing that some motorcyclists are severely injured in crashes, and can have life changing medical expesnse over a long term, it is the concept that we are such a major burden that I find most offensive.

In a study by the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center; it was determined that 49.5% of injured motorcyclist had their injury costs covered by insurance, and 50.4% of other road trauma victims had their injury costs covered by insurance.  At first glance, it would seem that motorcyclists are a somewhat greater burden than those other injured on the highways.  But let's take a closer look at those percentages, shall we?

Using these figures, and the actual 2012 injury stats from the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, things look a bit different.



As you can see, motorcyclists who suffer "serious injuries" ( in Washington state a "serious" injury is anything that would keep you from driving off and on your way.  In otherwords broken bones, lacerations, etc.) and whose medical costs are not covered by insurance, thus relying on government aid is still less than 75% of other highway trauma victims.  Yet little is mentioned about automobile accident victims, pedestrians, and bicyclists being a social burden.

Why is it, that there are other more costly 'burdens' to society that, while not quite socially acceptable, are still considered an individuals personal right?  Smoking, and consumption of alcohol come to mind quite readily.  Yet, even with the extremely large costs to society in many areas, these activities are not only permitted, but readily available to participate in.  I can easily go to the store and buy a few packs of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey and nothing will be said.  But if I ride my motorcycle to the store to purchase the whiskey and cigarettes, while not wearing a helmet, I am suddenly some risk taking lunatic with a death wish.  It doesn't make sense to me.

I would like to know about those people injured and incapacitated, needing government aid to help with their medical bills.  How many of them suffered head injuries?  How many suffered incapacitating injuries unrelated to head injuries?  Most of all, I would like to know how many suffered neck injuries attributable to wearing a helmet on their head?  

It is not natural to have that weight on your head, and a human neck must deal with the additional stresses involved with that extra weight.  Here's a quote from the helmet manufacturer Racers Market on just that subject; "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 more risk of neck injuries."

So tell me again, why are motorcyclists such a social burden that we aren't allowed the Right to decide for ourselves what level of protection and risk we are willing to accept?  Why are we being discriminated against, forced to wear helmets that are only rated to withstand an impact of 13.4 mph, that helmet manufacturers admit can also cause neck injuries?

Here is state Senator Don Benton's statements on this matter.  Listen to what he has to say, and see if it helps to clarify my point.


video


Catch you on the road sometime...






Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Have To Wear This WHY!?!



I was going over some old data last night, and the more I sorted through it all, the more I became aware that there has to be some other reason that we here on the entire west coast, not just Washington State, are forced to wear these damn helmets while we ride.  From looking at this stuff; starting with a 1978 study of all head injuries by cause in San Diego County, and working forward from there, I can't understand how we are mandated to wear these coconuts on our heads.  With 53% of head injuries being caused by motor vehicles (read that cars  & trucks, since there is a separate category for motorcycles) and only 10% caused by motorcycles, WHY THE HELL DON'T CAR DRIVERS HAVE TO WEAR THEM?

Then, I look at compliance test results for motorcycle helmets stretching from 1980 to 2008.  What do I see?  An overall 61% failure rate for helmets.  That means 61% of the helmets tested between 1980 & 2008 didn't even meet the federal standard!  Have a look, and see for yourselves.

“DOT” HELMET COMPLIANCE FAILURE RATES
1980-2008
Year
# Tested
# Passed
# Failed
% Failed
1980
162
63
99
61%
1981
103
53
50
48%
1982
0
0
0
0
1983
0
0
0
0
1984
32
21
11
34%
1985
32
0
32
100%
1986
30
0
30
100%
1987
0
0
0
0
1988
0
0
0
0
1989
30
6
24
80%
1990
30
4
26
86%
1991
47
16
31
66%
1992
30
7
23
76%
1993
31
11
20
64%
1994
167
39
128
76%
1995
168
42
126
75%
1996
167
53
114
68%
1997
41
22
19
46%
1998
40
21
19
46%
1999
40
24
16
40%
2000
40
18
22
55%
2001
40
23
17
42%
2002
40
25
15
37%
2003
40
20
20
50%
2004
40
28
12
30%
2005
40
23
17
42%
2006
40
22
18
45%
2007
39
20
19
48%
2008
37
22
15
40%
TOTALS
1506
583
923
61%


That's just mind boggling that with a non-complince rate like that, we are still being forced to wear helmets.  Basically we have a nearly two out or three chance that our helmets are no good.

Then you think about what researchers and manufacturers say about helmets.  Basically, they are useless over 25 mph.  If they are even any good at speeds that low.  

DOT tests apply two impacts as well, both at around 13.4 MPH implying a single impact capacity greater than 13.4 mph but certainly no more than 19 mph.”  Ed Becker, SNELL Foundation


Even Harry Hurt, the author of one of the most quoted studies on traffic safety in the 20th Century condeded in a report by KABC TV in Los Angeles that; 

"When impact speeds get up to be about 25 to 30 mph, there's no helmet in the world gonna save you."

So basically, if we ride at the standard speed limit within a town or city of 25mph, then our helmets are virtually useless at that speed already?  If that is the case, I ask again; "Why do we have to wear these things?" 

Unless you are in a crash, the helmet is serving no purpose.  From what I have been finding in my research, if you do get into a crash, the helmet may not work as desired.  So with these sort of odds, is it down to luck?  If helmets don't work as desired to protect against head injury, do they have any other undesriable effects?

“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 more risk of neck injuries.”   Excerpt of an email from Racer’s Market (a helmet manufacturer) 

So if the helmets can't be expect to withstand impacts above about 20 mph, and they can cause neck injuries during crashes where there isn't an impact on the head, I have to ask again...;  "I am being forced to wear this thing WHY!?!

Catch you on the road sometime...