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...