8 Ball In The Wind

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Black Thursday

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.

This is the opportunity for all the motorcyclists in Washington state to get their message to the legislators.  We are not a 'public burden'.  Nor are we children who must be 'taken care of'.  We are adults who simply want to have the Liberty to exercise our Freedoms.  

This year, as it will be every year until we convince those within the Capitol that we will not stop until we have the Liberty to exercise our Freedom of choice, the main focus will be to amend the universal helmet law.  The second priority will be to introduce and support other legislation in the best interests of the motorcycling community as a whole.  Such as a "lane filtering" bill, and I believe there may be an 'equal access' bill introduced as well.

If you ride a motorcycle.  Or even if you just support the idea of motorcyclists rights, and believe in the "Freedom of the Road", come down to Olympia on Thursday, January 22nd.  The event starts at 8:00 AM, and continues until 4:00 PM at the Capitol.  The Confederation of Clubs, as well as a number of other motorcyclists will leave Hawks Prairie for an en masse 'parade' to the Capitol Campus at about 10:00 AM or so.  If you don't ride along, it is quite the sight and sound to hear the bikes all rolling onto the Capitol grounds.  Afterward, there will be a legislative 'Meet & Greet' at the Governor Hotel from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  Come, meet your legislators, and join the fight to regain our Liberties.

See you there.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Get The Message?

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

Biker Basic-101

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".

A letter was sent  complaining about this behavior by the WSP.  The response from the Chief of the Washington State Patrol?  Laughable if it wasn't such a blatant example of profiling from the states top cop.  The Chief of the WSP stated it was done as a precaution because it was their belief that whenever motorcycle clubs come together, there is a "propensity for violence".  I mean really now...The Clubs all ride in together, en masse.  Then all the motorcyclists at the Capitol meet on the steps of the Capitol for a few brief speeches, and a photo op or two.  This has been going on for decades, and I don't recall there ever being any sort of incident at the Capitol campus during "Black Thursday" when everyone is there to see their legislators, and have their voices heard as a community.

It wasn't much better in 2010.  The WSP wasn't crawling around in bushes.  But only because all the bikes were parked out in the open.  However, all the motorcyclists who came to speak with the legislators that day had to walk between four law enforcement vehicles and a K9 unit.  Talk about condescending, and dehumanizing.  All the while, things were beginning to bubble to the surface that the WSP, in complete violation of Judge Hicks' injunction, had been using "Biker Basic-101" in their training  for WSP Troopers.  Perhaps the WSP only follows the laws and Court Orders it agrees with.  

During this time, there was a court case going on over a "pretextual stop" on the I-5 freeway, not far from the Capitol.  The video of the stop, and sworn testimony of WSP Troopers showed that the State Patrol had ignored the Superior Courts injunction and continued to use "Biker Basic-101" as a training guide.  The result of that case was a $90,000 award against the WSP as a result of that stop.  One would think that such a court decision, followed relatively closely by the passing of the nations first Anti-Motorcycle Profiling Law would have some impact on the way the WSP does business.

If you thought that, you would most likely be wrong.  There are several videos on YouTube that shows WSP Troopers using "pretextual stops" against motorcyclists and trying to gather intelligence about Club activity.  One is truly remarkable because it shows the same Trooper that was involved in the stop that resulted in the $90,000 award against the WSP, and another Trooper topping two prospects from one of the Armed Forces Motorcycle Clubs, and yet appearing totally ignorant of the fact there were such things.  Referring to the colors of the rockers worn by the prospects, one of the Troopers wondered if the Black & Red were the colors of a subordinate Club to the Hells Angels whose colors are Red & White.  They seem to think this is a probability because these two prospects had said they were going to "a friends house".  Which one of the Troopers, after noting that they had been riding down a main street after leaving the freeway in the general direction of the Hells Angels Clubhouse, that "maybe a friends house could be the clubhouse."  The ignorance of the WSP Troopers is remarkable to me, in that how can you gather any sort of worthwhile 'intelligence' if you do not even possess the most rudimentary knowledge of the various types of Motorcycle Clubs even within the immediate vicinity.  This mentality, as put forth through "Biker Basic-101" lumps all "bikers" into one group.  As if anyone riding a large cruiser type bike and wearing leather is a member of some notorious like they have seen on TV and in the movies.  Check it out for yourselves, and see what I mean.  The WSP isn't the shining paragons of virtue they would like to have every John Q. Public believe they are.  Just as almost no one in the motorcycling community comes from Sons Of Anarchy.

Click on the link in the first paragraph, or Google Biker Basic 101 and check it out for yourself.  Let me know if you don't feel offended at the low regard shown to motorcyclists and our "old ladies" by this pamphlet, and the WSP.  They are not the fair and equal enforcers of law in Washington State.  If they were, they wouldn't be the main opposition against any effort to amend or repeal the helmet law.  But then, if that happened, it would remove the easiest "violation" for the WSP and "other officers" to use as "pretextual stops" against us.  Think about it.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Turning The Tables On The "Safety-crats"

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.

1.       “Fatalities are not age discriminate.”  According to the Washington St. Dept. of Licensing, approximately 40% of motorcycle fatalities are under 24 years old.  The other 60% of fatalities are spread between riders 25-70+ years of age.  So while not completely “age discriminate”, there is a preponderance of death among the young.
2.       “Inexperienced riders, coupled with the ever increasing population of this state, thus increasing the population of motor vehicle operators and millions of miles traveled.”  Of course, when the demographic group size increases, there will be a rise in fatalities.  It is only common sense that if a significantly large enough number of people are riding to warrant the WSP witness to comment on that fact, then it would follow that there would be an increase in fatalities.  However, the statement does not concur with the Dept. of Licensing’s own data that shows a relatively flat rate of motorcycle registrations in Washington State over the past several years. 
3.       “A 9% increase in accidents investigated by WSP.”  Simply means there was an increase of fatal accidents on state highways versus county or municipal roadways.
4.       “I can’t imagine what the number of fatalities would be if we were to repeal this law.”  It would appear that Capt. Rob Huss hasn’t looked at the statistics from states such as Florida, Texas, and the latest from Michigan that shows; a nearly 30% drop in accidents, over 25% drop in fatalities, and an over 25% drop in the number of incapacitating injuries.  Those are facts, not imaginings.
American Automobile Association (AAA):
1.       “Helmets decrease the severity of head injuries, the likelihood of death, and the overall cost of medical care.”  If this were the case, shouldn’t the ‘Triple A’ be pushing for helmet use among automobile passengers?  After all, according to studies of head injury causes, some 53% of head injuries are automobile related, compared to only 10% on motorcycles.
2.       “Are helmet use laws that apply only to young motorcyclists effective?”  Judging from Washington States own Traffic Safety Board, it is the young motorcyclists that are, by far the highest percentage of fatal motorcycle accidents under the current law.  So perhaps the question should be is any universal helmet law effective?
Washington Traffic Safety Board:
1.       “1988 study by the Harborview Injury & Research Center found that public funding paid for 63% of motorcycle injury medical costs.”  There are numerous problems with the Harborview study.  The first of which is that it was conducted solely at Harboview; a Level One Trauma hospital, where medical costs were already significantly higher than at other hospitals in the region.  It also does not show how much of a patient’s bill were covered by private Insurance, only the total amount of the medical bill for patients that required public funding, whether it was $100 or $100,000.  Even a person with paid insurance, can reasonably expect their amount of coverage to not fully cover the enormous costs of a Level One Trauma hospital.    Therefore its data is skewed, making it appear that the much higher costs of trauma care at this facility is representative of the other hospitals even within the city limits of Seattle.  Since they do not handle the most severe injuries as Harborview does, their costs of care are much lower.  This study not only does not even attempt to compare the percentage of other highway trauma victims injury costs were paid for by public funding, it completely ignores those costs completely.  Even though they would show, at the least, whether or not traumatic automobile injuries were more, or less likely to be paid for by public funding.  Which being within the same facility, and therefore the same billing agency would not have been difficult to ascertain.
Washington State Dept. of Health, Health Systems Quality Assurance:
1.       “Prevention of injury is a core public health activity, and a priority for the Dept. of Health.  To that end, prevention of traumatic brain injuries aligns with the Department and public health priorities.”  It appears that the Dept. of Health is unaware of studies such as the “Motorcyclist Craniofacial injury Patterns” by Drs. Cooter & David of the the Australian Craniofacial Unit at The Royal Adelaide Hospital.  Which shows a very direct link between certain types of commonly used full face helmets and not only fatal but “traumatic” skull fractures and brain injuries.
2.       “According to the CDC, wearing helmets that meet the Dept. of Transportation standard is the single most effective means of reducing the number of people who get injured or die in motorcycle crashes .”  This brings several questions to mind.  Foremost of which is what the Centers for Disease Control doing involving itself in the motorcycle helmet issue.  However, it also allows me to bring up the fact that in a letter from the CDC to US Representative Thomas Petri in 2014 that only 41% of motorcycle operators who died in 2010 were not wearing helmets.  That means that 59% of them were wearing helmets.  Also, NHTSA (the government agency that created the Federal helmet standard everyone keeps referring to) has stated several times over the years that motorcycle helmets are only “estimated to be 37% effective” in preventing injuries and saving lives of motorcyclists involved in crashes.
Washington State Medical Association:
1.       Testified on the tragic consequences of a motorcycle injury or death on the surviving family.  This is understandable.   But excluded the tragedy and trauma of other highway users.   Motorcycle riders are not the only victims of highway trauma.  Pedestrians involved in traffic accidents, bicyclists, and all other traumatic accident victims would have the same effect due to traumatic injury or death.
2.       Testified about the tragic effect on first responders, emergency room staff, and even rehabilitation staff.  This brings up three statements that would tend to negate the importance of this statement.  A.) It was the choice of those individuals to pursue a career in that field.  Which by the very nature of that decision, would entail dealing with traumatic and devastating injuries and death.  B.) Do these same individuals not also experience these same things dealing with traumatic automobile accident injuries and death?  C.) Did these individuals not experience these  same feelings and emotions while dealing with traumatic motorcycle accident victims who were wearing helmets?
If we were to accept the testimony of the witness from the Washington State Medical Association, we would also have to realize that the previous points make her testimony moot.  The thought that a universal helmet law should be maintained out of compassion for the medical and other emergency personnel having to respond to the scene is ridiculous.  The Right of the individual to decide the level of protection they feel is suitable for themselves should be restricted because that choice might adversely emotionally effect other individuals who have chosen a profession that have chosen to participate in a field that involves dealing with that sort of trauma?  It is as ridiculous a statement as saying we should close the hospitals so that the medical staff doesn’t have to be affected by their own compassion for the sick, injured, and dying.
During her testimony, this witness cited a NHTSA study to reinforce her position of being opposed to amending the helmet law mandate to those below 18 years of age.  In response to her use of a NHTSA report stating that helmet use “saved” three billion dollars in medical cost (which since no one can know facts of costs that didn’t actually occur, is only an estimate at best), here is a statistic (of fact, not an estimate) also from NHTSA, 81% of motorcycle fatal motorcycle injuries during the time studied (2000-2002) did not involve the head.

In conclusion, it seems the “safety-crats” are trying to retain control over the Rights of individuals by any means they can.  The WSP briefly mentioned the true crux of their opposition to this bill in Capt. Rob Huss’ testimony.  It would be “un-enforceable” do to the inability to tell whether a motorcyclist was under the age of 18 or not in traffic.  But then, they have an easy enough time seeing whether or not there is a one inch by three DOT emblem on the back of your helmet or not.
Why the AAA is even concerned with a bill about motorcycles is puzzling.  Unless they feel it would somehow be perceived as an unequal privilege for motorcyclists to not have to wear a mandated helmet, when automobile occupants must wear seatbelts, which may be a possibility.  But then again, roughly five times the number of head injuries are related to automobiles than to motorcycles. 
The Washington Traffic Safety Boards use of the infamous Harborview Report shows that their opposition is a long one.  That study was biased against motorcyclists from the beginning by the omission of key data points, and it’s use as a reference 25 years after the fact would appear to show a continued bias as well.
Washington State Dept. of Health, Health Systems Quality Assurance was a scripted testimony of facts citing that obviously did not look beneath the surface.  Using the quote from the CDC shows a typical bureaucratic mentality that when a regulation or standard is made, that it will be followed without questioning whether that is the case or not.  The key point of the quote “wearing helmets that meet the Dept. of Transportation standard is the single most effective means of reducing the number of people who get injured or die in motorcycle crashes ” is the part where helmets meet the Dept. of Transportation standard.  While in a legal sense, until proven otherwise by testing, purchasing a helmet that has a DOT emblem on it means it meets that standard, in reality, you have nearly a two out of three chance of purchasing a helmet that in actuality does not meet the standards of FMVSS-218.  That is according to nearly thirty years of independent testing of certified DOT compliant helmets
While it may seem heartless for me to say this, the testimony of the Washington State Medical Association  would appear to show motorcyclists as a class of exceptionally horrific and gruesome traumatic injuries incomparable with other highway users.  So tragically injured it causes serious distress to the emergency medical workers who knowingly chose that field as a profession.  As if only motorcyclists were somehow to blame for being killed and traumatically injured in a highway crash by choosing to ride a motorcycle in the first place.  While automobile occupants apparently, from their total lack of mention in regards to the effects on medical staff and first responders, are either are not nearly as tragically injured when their faces strike the steering wheel or other possibly some loose object within the car, so as to affect those trying to save them, or not as tragically killed.  Again, it shows a condescending bias towards motorcyclists, and clearly only meant to be used as an emotional blow on the head of the committee.
What really shouldn’t amaze me as much as it does, is the fact that the witness from the insurance industry was in favor of the helmet bill.  He also stated that if helmets were truly a significant “safety” device, the insurance companies wouldn’t insure motorcyclists in voluntary helmet states.  With all the statistics on ways we injure and kill ourselves, as much as we may not like them, the insurance companies do know the odds when it comes to death and injury.  They couldn’t make as much money as they do if they didn’t.

Think about it.  The WSP doesn’t like it because they would lose a tool that allows them to get around the anti-profiling law in Washington, and also brings in some funding to the government coffers.  But mainly it is a control and power item for them.  For the others, they’re various forms of the same paternalistic “safety-crat” that has been around forever.  They see the helmet as having some intrinsically protective power.  The fact that, as was stated by the witness from the AAA, that NHTSA states that helmets are 37% effective is glorious news to them.  Their minds  just don’t comprehend that fact also shows a 63% in-effective rate.  Just a little something to chew on while you think about fighting for the helmet bill coming up in this legislative session in January.

Catch you on the road sometime…

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Its A Rights Fight

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

What Is Lane Filtering?

"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

The WSP...They Just Don't Get It

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...