8 Ball In The Wind

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dubious Constitutionality In Government Agency Agenda's

While researching motorcycle related injuries and fatalities has produced some fairly readily available data on location and degree of injuries for motorcyclists.  Trying to obtain similar data for other motor vehicle related injuries and fatalities is proving to be quite a different matter entirely.  Outside of some data from the Centers for Disease Control that actually directly compared head injury rates of motorcyclists to other motor vehicle occupants, there has been relatively little.

For example, in a NHTSA report on fatal injuries involving 15 passenger vans the fatalities are broken down by; percentage of those fatalities were the driver, percentage of fatalities by gender, by age group, by use of passenger restraints, and even the percentage related to rollovers.  Yet no where in that report is any mention of the type of injuries, or their location on the body.  Would it not be logical to examine the mechanisms that led to fatal injury and how to mitigate them in future, rather than examining the percentage of fatalities by age and gender?  Without knowing what the fatal injuries were, how can one assume to be able to mitigate them in the future?  NHTSA has admitted in some of it's own reports that it's system is not designed to document much of the details beyond what they have.  Which creates a bureaucracy that admittedly doesn't have all the detailed data, yet continues to implement procedures based on incomplete or worse irrelevant data, irregardless of Constitutionality.  One of the key reasons the federal seat belt standard calls for an over the shoulder harness, is because outside observers cannot tell if a occupant of a vehicle is buckled up without the shoulder strap visible. Even though you may never get them to admit that fact.  But consider that mandatory seat belt laws didn't become primary until after visible shoulder straps became standard.

What does seem to be somewhat alarming is the government's apparent fixation on passenger restraints and air bags in motor vehicles, and helmets on motorcyclists as injury prevention agents.  As if somehow these items alone will somehow end fatal injuries on the highway.  By examining the data from the 2010 CDC report "TBI in the United States", one can see that on average, over 104,000 people suffer traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle traffic crashes annually.  This is with the protection of air bags and restraints.  This does not count motorcyclists, who add an average of 9,900 TBI's to the mix every year.  

The CDC is another example of a bureaucracy that doesn't seem to either understand, or simply disregards the Constitution.  In a recent report, the CDC touted the effectiveness of random DUI checkpoints, and bemoaned the fact that many states laws forbid the practice.  The CDC openly supported law enforcement randomly setting up checkpoints to inspect all vehicles for impaired drivers.  Without any apparent comprehension that such checkpoints violate the citizens rights to be secure from illegal search and seizure without due process.  Without that comprehension, they move closer to defacto dictatorial bureaucracies, placing their agenda above the nation's highest law.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Lane Sharing, What Is It?

Throughout Europe and Asia, and many parts of Australia, motorcycles are allowed to travel in the spaces between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction on multi-lane roadways, with motorcycles traveling in the unused space between the lanes of vehicles on the roadway.  As can be seen in this photograph of traffic on a California highway, there is more than enough room for motorcycles to pass between the lanes of traffic.  This practice allows motorcycles to move through the traffic flow in a safe manner, instead of under using the space that could otherwise be used by a larger vehicle in traffic.  There is often a space of 4 to 6 feet between the vehicles in adjacent lanes.  With motorcycles generally being little more than 2 feet in width, there is normally plenty of space for motorcycles to pass between. 
California is currently the only state in the US that allows lane sharing.  While it has been allowed for many decades, it was only in 2016 that it was actually codified in the California Vehicle Code.  In 2013, the California Highway Patrol issued a set of guidelines that had been worked through amongst state agencies and other organizations that had a stake in the transportation field within the state of California.  It took several years of negotiation to reach the final guidelines published by the CHP.  However, a state employee filed a complaint with the state, claiming that since the practice was not codified in law, the CHP was attempting to illegally create new law by issuing the guidelines.  The CHP then withdrew its guidelines, and joined in the effort to actually study the issue so that it could be made into law by the California state Assembly.

In both the 2014 and the 2015 studies done by University of California Berkeley for the State of California, some rather surprising findings came to light that could affect the movement to bring lane sharing/splitting to other states as well.  Overall, the reports brought out several key pieces of data that demonstrates just how safe the practice actually is for motorcyclists.  Even at higher traffic speeds than is generally sought in many bills brought before state legislators.  The sampling for these studies was significantly higher than in many previous studies on motorcycle safety.  Roughly five times larger than sampling for the famous Hurt Report of the 1980's that is generally regarded as the most in-depth study of the 20th Century.  This large sampling showed quite positive results regarding the safety benefits for motorcyclists who chose to lane share/split.

A 2012 study by J.V. Ouellet showed that the percentage of motorcyclists who lane share/split dropped significantly once traffic speeds reached 40 mph.  This falls in line with the guidelines build into legislation proposed by ABATE of Washington that will be introduced in the Washington State Legislature in January, 2017.  While lane sharing may not be for everyone, it has benefits for everyone on the road.  In a 2011 study from Belgium, it was shown that a small modal shift to a ratio of 10% motorcycles to 90% motor vehicles, would reduce overall traffic congestion by 40%.  While that modality shift may be possible, in a state with the climate similar to that of Washington State, it is unlikely.  At least not year round.  However, what can be much more likely, and still effective, is to allow lane sharing by those motorcyclists already on the roadways.  
Imagine for a moment all of the motorcycles in the photo to the left remaining each in its normal position within the traffic flow.  Each of these motorcycles would have been taking up road space enough for a car or a truck.  But, by lane sharing, the rest of the traffic can move forward and fill all of that now vacant space.  This allows all the highway users to move, and reduces the overall congestion period significantly.  With virtually zero expense for new infrastructure needing to be built.

The lane sharing studies carried out in 2014 and 2015 both showed that it is a safe practice.  Those taking part in the practice involved in fewer crashes, and with fewer and less severe injuries.  This corresponds nicely with findings from the MAIDS 2009.  That study from Europe found that only 0.4% of motorcycle accidents were lane sharing related.  It also found, as did the two California studies that injuries were less severe as well.  According to the 2015 study, those lane sharing motorcyclists who crashed  suffered; almost one half the number of head injuries, a third as many torso injuries, and less than half as many fatalities.  The 2015 California study actually states that lane sharing; "appears to be a relatively safe motorcycling strategy if done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph."  The bill being introduced in the legislature would create a maximum speed of traffic at 25 mph, as well as a maximum speed differential of 10 mph.  As you can see, well within the safety limits described by the 2015 lane sharing study.
When used with just a little common sense riding, lane sharing is as safe as any other technique sued by motorcyclists.  As this image demonstrates, the motorcyclists doesn't have space enough to pass between the two trucks at this point, so is applying his brakes to stop between traffic behind the trucks.  With a slight bit of patience, space will open up, and the rider will be able to pass by both trucks in what the CHP calls a "safe and prudent" manner.

The Washington State Patrol is even given the authority in the bill to create training and educational materials on lane sharing.  It is a technique that will require some public
education of motor vehicle operators to insure the public is aware the practice would be legal, as well as guidelines such as the CHP created for motorcyclists in California.

The WSP is familiar with the practice as well.  Allowing law enforcement officers to pass between lanes of traffic in the performance of their duties is already part of the current RCW.  The public hasn't been exposed to any media reports of law enforcement motorcycle officers killed or maimed on the highways of Washington State.  All of these reports explain why that is the case.  With just a modicum of skill and common sense, lane sharing is a safe and sensible technique used around the world successfully.  It is high time it is made available to citizens of Washington State.

Catch you on the road sometime...


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lane Sharing; An Effective and Inexpensive Congestion Relief Option

The Interstate 5 corridor is a virtual parking lot.  The commute time for the 29 mile journey from Seattle to Everett is over an hour or more.  Washington State wants to spend over $50 Billion, primarily on improved light rail, with some transit improvements in the greater King/Snohomish County Metroplex.  Billions spent on expensive infrastructure plans such as; additional lanes on the freeways that give public transit priority over privately owned vehicles, and toll-lanes that remain empty during the heaviest traffic congestion,  It is a fact of life in Washington State.  The public does their share to help ease "the slog", by car or van pooling, switching to more fuel economical, hybrid or electric cars.  All the while, the State continues its inexorable march towards transforming all the limited access roadways (freeways) into toll only, with a priority given to public transit over privately owned vehicles.  

Billions of dollars pumped into creating less and less flexible infrastructure.  While either disregarding, or actively being antagonistic towards other options that have the added benefits of creating more flexibility of infrastructure without the expense of billions of dollars that benefit primarily the Metroplex.  Attempting to reach politically set goals; that again, are aimed to please the inhabitants of the Metroplex while ignoring the infrastructure deficiencies of the rest of the State.  Such as calling for 20% of the State's motor pool to be electric vehicles, while there remains limited charging stations across the State outside of the Metroplex.

One option that has been suggested, and one that is used around the world with success, has also met with opposition from the State.  This option is lane sharing.  Or lane splitting as it is called in California.  The State opposed it as "dangerous", "unsafe" and because car drivers "wouldn't be used" to it.

Strangely, this was actually looked at by the Federal Government as part of a modality shift to aid in easing congestion nationwide, lower emissions of greenhouse gasses, and reduce fuel consumption.  Changing from using petroleum fueled automobiles to motorcycles, hybrid, and fully electric cars.  Could it be that since this concept wouldn't need additional infrastructure, and would cost a negligible amount in comparison to the $50 plus billion Sound Transit plan, that it carries little with it to benefit law makers in the legislative transportation committees?  After all, the majority of those committee members live in the Metroplex, and perhaps an inexpensive option without the obvious, visible monuments to their efforts holds little appeal.  With lane sharing, there would be no need for permanent stations, modern new rail bridges, or any visible structure to show.  

However, what lane sharing does not present in the way of expensive new infrastructure to admire, it makes up for in flexibility, low cost, and safety.  It may require a paradigm shift in the mentality of those in the legislature to understand the true benefits to be had by legalizing lane sharing.  This isn't about motorcyclists being able to "cut ahead in line".  Lane sharing is about easing the congestion and shorten the overall length of the time the roadways are congested.  

Similar to one proposed idea by WADOT to ease congestion on the Interstate 5 through Seattle by narrowing the lanes by enough to create on additional lane for traffic.  Lane sharing in effect adds additional lanes for motorcycles by allowing them to travel in the space between lanes under certain circumstances.  This allows more vehicles to fill the same roadway segment, and thus shortening the overall time of congestion.

The circumstances under which lane sharing would be allowed, are rather simple.  When traffic flow is stopped, or moving at 25 mph or less, motorcycles are allowed to pass between the lanes of traffic.  But only at a speed differential of no more than 10 miles an hour.  

Decades of experience in California, where the practice is called 'lane splitting" has shown that following these guidelines, lane sharing is safe.  In the words of the California Highway Patrol, it is a "safe and prudent" practice.  Studies performed in California, and around the world provide support for that statement.  A 2015 study done by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center, at the University of California Berkeley confirmed earlier studies that showed; lane splitting motorcyclists who followed the stated guidelines had lower risk of crashes, lower risk and severity of head, torso, and fatal injuries than other motorcyclists.  The lower injury levels could in part be due to the fact that collisions between motorcyclists and vehicles tended to have less direct impact force, and more oblique force.  This allows the motorcyclists in most cases to remain upright and on the vehicle.  Which is a much safer scenario than being rear ended by a vehicle while sitting stopped in traffic.  Surprisingly, studies show that the risk for injuries for lane splitting motorcyclists remains significantly lower until speeds reach approximately 50 mph.

The bill being introduced in the Washington State legislature has these guidelines built into it.  Therefore, a motorcyclist exceeding the 10 mph speed differential, or performing the technique when traffic is flowing faster than 25 mph will be in violation.

Of course there is a degree of common sense involved.  It should go without saying that it isn't advisable to try to lane share between to large vehicles such as trucks or busses, or in any situation where space is restricted.  Sadly there will always be some motor vehicle operators who seem to leave their common sense at home.  However, when following these guidelines for proper lane sharing, the risk of injury is significantly reduced for motorcyclists.

Opposition to lane sharing in Washington State seems to come most from misconceptions and misunderstanding.  Or from the fear that other motor vehicle operators "aren't used to" the idea, and "will be angry" at the legislators who support the practice.  The fear being that those "angry" motor vehicle operators will vote against the legislators who supported the practice.  The misconceptions and misunderstandings seem to be most about motorcyclists "flying" passed slow moving traffic at near, or above normal freeway speeds.  Those that may do this, would be in violation of the language of the current bill, and liable to experience the wrath of law enforcement for a range of possible violations.  Ranging from simple speeding all the way to reckless, or negligent driving.  Only time, and experience will allow other highway users to become "used to" motorcycles lane sharing.  Just as with any change in traffic practices and laws.

A very good visual explanation of how lane sharing can be of benefit in Washington State is given in this 10 minute video clip demonstrating lane sharing in California:

Even when faced by automobile occupants leaving their doors open, getting in and out of their vehicles, and crossing lanes on foot in the stationary traffic, this motorcyclists is able to safely move through the stopped vehicles and proceed on his way.  "Revving" his motor to prevent it from "loading up" with fuel, and also as a warning to alert others that he is approaching.  

The legislation would allow lane sharing on 13 specific segments of freeway across the state; the Vancouver area, Tri-Cities, Spokane,  and even the greater Puget Sound Metroplex from Olympia to Arlington.  This would be used to gather data to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of the practice over a period ending in 2023.  Imagine the traffic congestion reductions for all freeway users when motorcycles are no longer required to inhabit the space that could be filled with a much larger vehicle.  As the motorcycles fill the space between lanes and aid in shortening the overall time of "rush hour" traffic congestion, getting everyone a much needed break in time spent sitting in the "slog"  they experience today.

It is a practice utilized around the world, and should be done here as well.  An inexpensive option to ease traffic congestion that doesn't carry with it a price tag of Billions of dollars.  One that is safe for motorcyclists, and eases the burden on our already overcrowded infrastructure.  A practice that once proven, could be easily adopted statewide.  Helping all the highway users in the State shorten their commute.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Helmets and Neck Injury Data

 In the 2013 study; "Helmets and Neck Injuries in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes" by Ouellet, Thom, Smith, and Hurt, the authors seem to find evidence that disputes NHTSA's often repeated denial that motorcycle helmets can cause neck or cervical injuries.  These authors have been working in the field for several decades, and this report is actually about a little known follow-up to the famous Hurt study completed in the 1980's.  This report shows that motorcyclists spinal cord and spinal column injuries changed in relation to the severity of the crash.  Helmeted motorcyclists showed a greater percentage of injuries than non-helmeted motorcyclists in four of the five categories shown in both high severity and lower severity impacts.  However it was most evident in the lower severity impact that these injury percentages increased dramatically, and mainly for helmeted motorcyclists.

In the high velocity impacts the percentages for injuries broke down this way
Spinal cord injury:  31.6% of helmeted riders, and 34.7% of non-helmeted riders
C1-C2 Fracture:      10.5% of helmeted riders, and 6,5% of non-helmeted riders
C3-C7 Fracture:      18.4% of helmeted riders, and 15,4% of non-helmeted riders
C1-C2 Subluxation
or Dislocation:         65.8% of helmeted riders, and 59.7% of non-helmeted riders
C3-C7 Subluxation
or Dislocation:         21.1% of helmeted riders, and 13.8% of non-helmeted riders

Even at these high severity impacts, it would seem to show a small but statistically higher percentage of helmeted riders receiving injuries than the non-helmeted riders.  Look at the difference in injury levels for each set of injuries for the lower severity impacts:

Spinal cord injury:  45.5% of helmeted riders, and 27.5% of non-helmeted riders
C1-C2 Fracture:      4.5% of helmeted riders, and 12.5% of non-helmeted riders
C3-C7 Fracture:      27.3% of helmeted riders, and 13.2% of non-helmeted riders
C1-C2 Subluxation
or Dislocation:         81.8% of helmeted riders, and 63.3% of non-helmeted riders
C3-C7 Subluxation
or Dislocation:         36.4% of helmeted riders, and 11.6% of non-helmeted riders

This same pattern of injury continues when looking at cervical soft tissue injury rates for helmeted and non-helmeted riders in high severity impacts:

Any Blood Vessel:  89.5% for helmeted riders, and 79.8% for non-helmeted riders
Vertebral Arteries:  50%    for helmeted riders, and 45.2% for non-helmeted riders 
Carotid Sheath:       73.7% for helmeted riders, and 53.2% for non-helmeted riders 
Nerve Plexus:         71.1% for helmeted riders, and 52.4% for non-helmeted riders
Neck Muscle:         71.1% for helmeted riders, and 58.9% for non-helmeted riders
Throat:                    15.8% for helmeted riders, and 18.5% for non-helmeted riders

The same pattern continues yet again when looking at these injuries due to low severity impacts:

Any Blood Vessel:  72.7% for helmeted riders, and 72.5% for non-helmeted riders
Vertebral Arteries:  50%    for helmeted riders, and 45.8% for non-helmeted riders 
Carotid Sheath:       50% for helmeted riders, and 43.3% for non-helmeted riders 
Nerve Plexus:         40.9% for helmeted riders, and 36.7% for non-helmeted riders
Neck Muscle:         59.1% for helmeted riders, and 55% for non-helmeted riders
Throat:                    27.3% for helmeted riders, and 12.5% for non-helmeted riders

According to the authors of the study, helmets seem to be associated injuries were "statistically significant, or bordering on significance are 1) C3-C7  subluxation-dislocation (but not C3-C7 spinal cord injuries); 2) hemorrhage in the carotid sheath; and 3) hemorrhage surrounding nerve trunks and plexes."  While most of these injuries may not be life threatening, they could lead to incapacitating injuries, with long term health consequences.  

By looking at these figures, surely a reasonable person would consider the risks of injury to the spinal cord or spinal column to be of enough consequence to warrant considering the viability of wearing a helmet on each individual opportunity to ride a motorcycle.  It should be up to the individual to decide what level of risk they are willing to take each and every time they wish to get on their personal motorcycle and ride.  It should not be left to groups of faceless bureaucracies to make that a blanket decision for all riders.  Especially when many of those same bureaucracies are attempting to reach a target of zero fatalities on the roads of Washington State within the next thirteen years.

Think about it.

I'll catch you on the road sometime,,,

NHTSA And the CDC Play Down Pro-Choice Helmet Data

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and other government agencies have for decades pushed for Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws in the United States.  Their claim that mandatory motorcycle helmet use is the best way to reduce motorcycle fatalities would seem to fly in the face of reality.  If this was true, than states with mandatory helmet laws should always have much lower injury and death rates than in pro-choice states that allow the choice to wear a helmet or not.  The facts show this to be untrue.  It has been demonstrated for decades to be false, and the pattern continues to this day, as I will show.  Yet, those same government agencies continue to push for a Universal Helmet Law.

 Fact is what should be focused on, and if the fact of helmet wearing causes serious health risks can be found buried deep within the reports of those who continue to maintain that universal helmet use is the one key to preventing motorcycle injury and fatalities.  It is only fitting that we use them to demonstrate the risk factors involved with mandatory helmet use, and of course to demonstrate the dubiousness of the "common sense" claim of motorcyclists as a "public burden".

One of the most telling examples of an agenda to create a Universal Helmet Law within the US is when proponents bring up the cost of head injuries, and how motorcyclists become a "public burden" to society due to their head injuries.  This is shown by the CDC's efforts.  Even though their own data shows not only that motorcyclists medical costs account for less than 0.001% of the total cost of American Healthcare.  Unhelmeted motorcyclists account for only a fraction of that 0.001%.  The CDC's own data further shows that automobile occupants involved in a crash are ten times more likely to go to the emergency room with head injuries than motorcyclists.  Think about that for a moment. 47.7% of automobile crash victims receive some form of head injury in a crash, and only 4.5% of motorcyclists receive some form of head injury in a crash.  According to the CDC, on average, 104,366 automobile crash victims suffer head injuries every year.  While 9,938 motorcyclists receive some type of head injury in crashes every year.  

Data from the 1994 Motorcycle Statistical Annual by the Motorcycle Industry Council, showed that both the accident rate, and fatality rate tended to be significantly higher in states with universal helmet laws than in pro-choice states.  On average, there were nearly one half as many accidents and fatalities in pro-choice states.  In 2014, a letter to US Rep. Thomas Petri from the Centers for Disease Control stated their support for Universal Helmet Laws with the fact that 41% of the motorcycles riders killed in 2010 were not wearing a helmet.  That would seem to show that have again as many motorcyclists died wearing helmets as not.  Which fits with the data from 1994.  

In May of 2016, The Governors Highway Safety Administration released it's Preliminary Report on highway safety.  In it were the statistics of fatalities for motorcyclists by state, and helmet law.  While the report again supported a Universal Helmet Law as the best way to reduce fatalities, the reports own data showed differently.  Of the nineteen states that have a Universal Helmet Law, twelve saw an increase in motorcycle fatalities between 2014 and 2015, while ten of 31 pro-choice (or no helmet law) states saw a decrease. So obviously helmet use is not the panacea it's proponents claim it to be.  Yet they disregard those facts, and continue their push for Universal Helmet Laws.

If you should google motorcycle helmet related neck injury studies, you will find several reports that take NHTSA or CDC studies and just slightly alter the words.  Some embellish them to the point that it is clear the original data was never really looked at.  As long as the canon of helmet use equals safety is preserved in the reports all the better.

In the 2009 NHTSA study "Motorcycle Helmet Use and Head and Facial injuries Crash Outcomes"
the data has some interesting points that would seem to weaken NHTSA's position that wearing helmets significantly lower head and neck injuries.  While the difference in Table 12 between helmeted and unhelmeted motorcyclists receiving no injury was 87.9% for helmeted and 80.2% for unhelmeted motorcyclists, the numbers of moderate to severe head injury are 1.4% or less in difference between the two groups.  This could be significant, as the description for Table 13 in the study states; "No differences were noted in the number and severity level of external injuries between helmeted and non-helmeted motorcyclists."  As the differences in Table 13 were all 1.4% or less, as were the differences in table 12 (Extremity Injury Severity), it should be safe to say NHTSA considers, a 1.4% difference to equate to no difference.  However in Table 14 (TBI Severity) it seems that a 1.9% difference in favor of helmeted riders for mild to moderate severity is something to be acknowledged.  These examples show that NHTSA is picking what data is significant or not by whether it supports NHTSA's Universal Helmet Law agenda or not.  This is troubling in several ways.  Not least of which is NHTSA's own data that 81% of helmeted motorcyclists die from injuries other than the head.  Then in this 2009 study, NHTSA downplays the fact that their data shows a 1.4% greater percentage of body extremity injuries for helmeted riders, while drawing attention to a 1.9% greater percentage of mild to moderate TBI in non-helmeted riders.

This study also showed a definite pattern of greater injury to the upper and lower extremities than unhelmeted motorcyclists.  A full 4% greater number of "Moderate" injury for helmeted riders than non-helmeted riders.  Curiously, the percentage of "No Injury" to both upper and lower extremities, is markedly lower in the riders not wearing helmets. 

Another curious fact about this study, is that while there are almost half again as many helmeted motorcycle riders injured in real numbers, the number of neck injuries for helmeted motorcyclists in real numbers is double those of non-helmeted riders.  The numbers for injury to the thoracic region of the body (the chest area) is also higher for helmeted motorcyclists.  NHTSA's own study shows that helmeted motorcyclists have a higher percentage of injuries to the neck, thoracic and abdominal regions of the body, as well as to both the upper and lower extremities than non-helmeted motorcyclists.  Yet they discount those facts in support of their Universal Helmet Law agenda.

Similarly, in the CDC's 2010 report, "Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States", the data shows that 47.7% of automobile occupants involved in a crash who go to the ER, are there for head injuries.  According to the CDC, that is an annual average of 104,366 head injuries in the ER are due to head injuries from automobile accidents.  Yet as stated previously, 9,938 motorcyclists are seen in the ER for head injury due to crashes.  Which brings to mind the question; "Why are motorcyclists considered a public burden?"  It is widely publicized that 54% of motorcyclists require some form of aid due to medical bills.  The fact that 57% of the public in general require assistance paying for their medical bills is hardly publicized or it is ignored.  Even though unhelmeted motorcyclist account for less than 0.001% of American healthcare costs, we are promoted as a "public burden" by government agencies like the CDC and others.

One of the canons of the Universal Helmet Law.agenda is the high cost of head injury and the "public burden" unhelmeted motorcyclists create for society.  As can be shown in this excerpt from the 2014 letter from the CDC to US Rep. Thomas Petri: "treating severe traumatic brain injuries costs 13 times more than non-brain injuries."

So to close, I bring you some government facts to consider:

1. NHTSA data shows that helmeted riders have only a 1.4% or less rate of moderate to critical head injuries than non-helmeted riders.
2. NHTSA data shows non-helmeted riders have only a 0.9% greater chance of moderate or severe facial injury than helmeted riders.
3. NHTSA data shows that helmeted riders have a higher risk of neck, thoracic, abdominal, and extremity injuries than non-helmeted riders.
4. NHTSA data shows that 81% of helmeted riders died from injuries to other parts of the body, which they have a higher risk of experiencing.
5. NHTSA data shows a lightly higher risk of moderate spinal injury than non-helmeted riders.
6. CDC data shows that unhelmeted motorcyclists account for less than 0.001% of American healthcare costs.
7. CDC data shows that treating severe TBI is 13 times more costly than non-brain injuries;
8. CDC data shows that nearly 11 times as many automobile occupants are admitted to the ER due to head injuries suffered in crashes than motorcyclists.

And we have to wear helmets why?  Because the paternalistic government, and their need for control over their citizens is certain motorcyclists will never band together enough support to vote them out of office.  While mandating automobile occupants to wear helmets for the same reason as motorcyclists must, would get them voted out of office at the next election.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

NHTSA Using Irrelevant And Misleading Facts

As I go through numerous publications from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) I come to notice a pattern that is used to support their desire for Universal Helmet Laws.  NHTSA uses information that has nothing to do with their position that motorcycle helmets are useful as safety devices.  Instead, they offer up obvious facts that have nothing to do with helmet safety, but are at the same time difficult to dispute.  This is an old technique, and one that tends to be successful unless you are aware of the pattern. By providing several facts that are obvious, it tends to place those reading the information into a subconscious mindset that they accept all the facts.  Becoming less objective in their reading and understanding of the facts presented. It is a technique that works, and perhaps that is why NHTSA uses it in their reports.

What are some of these obvious facts that are so difficult to dispute?  I'll show you, and let you decide if they have anything to do with the effectiveness of motorcycle helmet use.

1. All helmets sold in the US must meet FMVSS-218.
2. Universal Helmet Laws significantly increase helmet use and are easily enforced because of the riders high visibility.
3. Repeal of state helmet laws results in fewer riders wearing helmets.
4. Public support for motorcycle helmet use laws in the US is strong.
5. Helmet use in 2014 continued to be significantly higher in states with mandatory helmet laws than in other states.

 Padding reports with obvious facts tends to create a pattern in the readers mind that begins to accept all the facts as correct.  It also seems that while NHTSA tends to report facts, little effort is made to suggest options or strategies to reduce motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities beyond helmet use.  Not one of the facts listed above demonstrates anything beyond NHTSA's desire for universal helmet laws.

Another tactic that NHTSA uses is to state statistical facts that are "weighted" against motorcyclists.  For example quoting a statistic that per 100,000 vehicles registered motorcyclists are "6 times more likely to be involved" in a fatal accident than automobile occupants.  While this does sound rather severe, and by the way the formula is figured it may be true.  However, that statistic does not allow for the fact that, for example, in Washington State in 2014 there were almost 12 times as many automobiles registered in the state than motorcycles (2,748,938 automobiles versus 229,823 motorcycles).  When comparing the number of registered vehicles in both groups, and the number of fatalities in both groups, the numbers show that "likelihood" of being involved in a fatal crash in 2014, in Washington State is very low for both groups.  Approximately one in ten thousand for automobile occupants, and about three in ten thousand for motorcyclists.  Without critical and thoughtful observation of these "sound bites" of data, the reader of these NHTSA publications could be convinced that our highways are filled with motorcycle carnage.  

The fact that NHTSA is so myopically focused on universal helmet laws when it comes to motorcycles is even more confusing when NHTSA's own data states that 81% of helmeted motorcycle fatalities, and 64% of unhelmeted motorcycle fatalities die from injuries other than to their heads.  It is the same for seat belts and airbags in automobiles.  The knee jerk response in NHTSA publications for automobile safety is continued seat belt and air bag use.  With no other strategies to lower the very high head injury rates among automobile passengers.

A further example of a bias against motorcycles, is how NHTSA does not differentiate between types and sizes of motorcycles in the majority of its data sets.  However passenger vehicles are separated into four separate categories; passenger vehicles, SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans.  By deliberately dividing automobiles into multiple categories while not dividing motorcycles helps to skew the statistics even further.  What does seem to make me question further whether NHTSA is truly concerned about safety, or just control, is the fact that while NHTSA has pushed for universal helmet laws the majority of fatalities among motorcyclists since 1993 has been those wearing helmets.  Over the twenty-one years, the percentage of that helmeted majority of fatalities has grown!  It is as if the only goal is to have 100% of motorcyclists wearing helmets, regardless of any other consideration.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Who Needs Head Injury Protection Most?

There is a group of highway users in America who are under extreme risk of head injuries related to motor vehicle traffic crashes.  Fully 47.7% of this groups visits to emergency rooms after a motor vehicle traffic crash are due to head injuries, and 66.9% of hospitalizations from these same crashes are due to head injuries.  To add emphasis to their risk, 46.2% of their fatalities are due to head injuries.  This data comes from a highly respected and reliable source, the Centers for Disease Control's "Blue Book", Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States.  These figures can be found on pages; 30, 36, and 41 respectively.

If you would mandate that motorcyclists must wear helmets for head injury prevention, would it also be acceptable to mandate a segment of highway users who after being involved in a crash, almost half of them are admitted to the ER for head injuries?
If not, why not?  This group of highway users, according to the CDC, is roughly ten times more likely to end up in the ER for head injuries than motorcyclists, and six times more likely to be hospitalized than motorcyclists.

I keep hearing from people who tell me they think all motorcyclists should have to wear helmets on their heads for safety to protect against head injury.  They do not seem to want to consider that I may believe the helmet to be a significant factor in causing injury, or that the majority of motorcyclists who are killed in crashes die from injuries other than their head.  Nor have most that I have spoken to ever worn a motorcycle helmet for any extended time, if at all.  They have no comprehension of the effects of that three to five pounds of extra weight attached to your chin are when experiencing the multiple G-Force stresses of a crash, or of the effects within your skull that a helmet can do little or nothing to prevent.

Even when confronted with the question I posed at the start of this blog entry, the thought of being mandated to wear helmets is shockingly absurd to them.  It would seem to not even cross their mind to research the data on their own head injury risks, while they vigorously search to prove why motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets.  It is as if they live in denial of their own need for head injury prevention.  Some are even in the medical field themselves, and are completely unaware of the reality of the situation as they hypocritically attempt to force motorcyclists to wear helmets for our own protection.

As you may have guessed, that group of highway users that have such high percentages of head injuries are automobile occupants.  Even with seat belts and air bags as mandatory safety equipment, they still have much higher rates of head injury.  So tell me, who really needs head injury protection the most?

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Black Thursday Legislative Rally

On January 19th, 2017 ABATE of Washington will be holding their annual legislative rally "Black Thursday".As always, it will take place at the Capitol Building in Olympia.  Black Thursday is the biggest legislative event for the motorcycle community in Washington state.  If you support the fight for motorcyclists to regain our liberty to exercise our rights to choose whether or not, and when or when not to wear a helmet, come to Black Thursday.  If you support the traffic congestion relief effect of motorcyclists to be able to ride between lanes of traffic in slow or stationary traffic, come to Black Thursday.  Even if you are only vaguely aware of the legislation that has been passed in previous years thanks mainly to the efforts of ABATE of Washington, and other members of the motorcycle community, come to Black Thursday and be a part of something extraordinary.

What are some of the laws that have been enacted due to the efforts of the motorcycling community in Washington state?  Ever been caught at a traffic light that didn't detect your bike?  In 2014, the Governor signed the law that made it legal to go through that light after one cycle if it didn't detect your bike, and it was safe to do so.  That bill would hardly have had the impetus that it did to make it into law if it wasn't for the motorcycling community coming together in a show of unity at Black Thursday.  ABATE led the fight to make it legal for a motorcycle to pass a bicycle in the same lane, and again it was the community support shown at Black Thursday that helped gain legislative support for the bill.

In 2012, ABATE also supported the COC in it's successful efforts to get first of its kind legislation passed in the form of the United States first Motorcycle Anti-Profiling Law.  Which has had the effect of reducing pretextual stops of motorcyclists in Washington state by 90%.

Do you ride a bike with "apehanger"handle bars?  ABATE successfully led the fight to raise the handlebar height in Washington.  Have you "modified" your motorcycle by adding non-stock parts onto it?  Then you can thank ABATE of Washington for not getting a ticket for doing so.  These are just a few of the laws that ABATE of Washington has fought to get passed, and more importantly in some cases, have helped to prevent from getting passed.

How can you be a part of keep Washington State's motorcycling community free?  Come to Black Thursday and join in the fight to preserve the "Freedom Of The Road", and our rights to ride.  Join ABATE, as we gather on the steps of the Capitol and let our voices be heard.  Then we meet with legislators and discuss our issues, and work to reach our goals of passing more effective legislation to protect the Rights of motorcyclists in the State of Washington.  So come join ABATE of Washington and the rest of the motorcycling community as we rally for our Rights in Olympia on January 19th, 2017.  Black Thursday.

Friday, December 2, 2016


Article 1, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution states; “All political power is inherent in the people, and government derives their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

Article 1, Section 2 of the Washington State Constitution states; “The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.”

Article 1, Section 12 of the Washington State Constitution states; “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations.”

These are good words, and should have a powerful effect on keeping our society free.  Yet, in some cases they seem to be; if not ignored, then only given lip service to.  A case in point is the Universal Helmet Law.  It would seem that there are those in the Washington State Legislature seem to feel that how the issue physically may affect motorcyclists is less important than the way some in the medical field are emotionally affected by it.  Or that the Washington State Patrol, and the Washington Department of Transportation have a more important opinion of the effectiveness of the issue than those directly affected, Washington State’s motorcycling community.  It would appear that those individuals in the legislature are in violation of at least these three sections of the state constitution.

There are those in the legislature with a connection to the medical field.  Who feel that the trauma for those working in the field and trauma departments dealing with serious injuries outweigh the rights of motorcyclists to be able to choose when and where is the best choice to wear a helmet.  Does that even make sense?  That those who have made the choice to work in the field of medicine; especially in the emergency and trauma departments, should be so disturbed by what they see that they feel the need to limit the safety choices of others?  Yet I have been told by several legislators that one of their prime concerns in this issue is how it disturbs those in the emergency room treating the injured motorcyclist.  The mentality behind this way of thinking is beyond my understanding.  Because some members of one class of citizens experience emotional trauma while exercising their chosen profession, that somehow gives them the right to restrict the ability of another class of citizens to exercise their rights to make their own choices.  Yet it never seems to be expressed that the by far greater number of crash related trauma victims are due to automobile accidents.  It is only the injuries motorcyclists receive that seems to be so traumatic to the emergency medical staff.  As the late President Harry Truman used to say; “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

The fact that many in the medical field who so strongly support the mandatory use of motorcycle helmets balk at the thought of similar mandates for occupants of automobiles speaks volumes.  According to the Centers for Disease Control; 47.7% of emergency department visits due to automobile crashes are head injury related, as are 66.9% of hospitalizations due to automobile crash related head injuries.  Compared to only 4.5% of emergency department visits and 11.2% of hospitalizations due to motorcycle crash related head injuries.  Is it due to a perception among some voices in the medical field that motorcyclists are somehow more vulnerable, and therefore much more likely perceptually to be requiring emergency medical treatment?  This seems to form a condescending attitude that seemingly isolates motorcyclists as the greatest source of traumatic injuries in their minds and opinions.  They then voice that opinion to legislators in an attempt to prevent them from repealing, or even amending the universal helmet law.  An example of that mindset is best given by the Senate Transportation Committee hearing on SB5198, to amend the law.  When Senator Benton asked the Doctor from Harborview who was testifying against the bill if in her opinion, mandating the use of helmets by automobile occupants would reduce the amount of serious head injuries seen in Harborview’s trauma center, she was taken aback by the question.  As if the idea had never even occurred to her.  Then she simply stated, in a rather condescending manner, that there were no studies to show that "...except maybe for race car drivers".  Obviously she only looked for motorcycle head injury studies, or she would have easily found the CDC’s 2010 report "Traumatic Brain Injuries in the United States".  The very thought of mandating automobile occupants to wear a helmet is to them laughable.  They have no issue with legislating requirements for a minority class of citizens, while refusing to even consider the same requirement for all citizens.  This would seem to be a violation of Article 1, Section 12 of the Washington State Constitution.

Others in the legislature feel that the Washington State Patrol is the most important party to listen to on this issue.  Even though the WSP has a history of bias against motorcyclists, and even was found in 2009, to have been violating a court order to not use Basic Biker 101 as a training guide for 7 years!  Many of those officers trained and indoctrinated during those many years are still on duty, and still carry the mindset instilled by that training.  On the issue of mandatory helmet use itself; when presented with facts, including the WSP’s own information during a legislative hearing, the individual testifying for the WSP could only testify that helmets “protected motorcyclists from flying debris, like lug nuts.”  The fact that some legislators place more weight and value to the opinion of the Departments of; Licensing and of Transportation, and the WSP than its own citizens directly involved would seem to be a violation of Article 1, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution.

Article 1, Section 2 of the Washington State Constitution states; “The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.”  Yet Washington State’s universal helmet law would seem to violate the US Constitutions Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection” clause.  By mandating one class of citizens to relinquish its right to self-determine the proper level of self-protection, while not requiring the majority of the citizens to relinquish that same right would seem to violate the concept of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.  Especially when looking at, and comparing the head injury rates between the two groups.  Either both groups should have their rights restricted, or both should be allowed to choose whether to wear a helmet, or not.  But one minority should not be forced to, while the majority isn’t.

As I was reminded earlier today, Article 1, Section 29 of the Washington State Constitution states; "The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise."  The Washington State and US Constitutions are not suggestions to be followed when it is most convenient, but directives to be obeyed by all, regardless of any convenience or expediency.

Catch you on the road sometime…

Monday, November 28, 2016

Same Old Song And Dance On Helmets

I've been going over research and studies from various academic and government sources about motorcycle helmet safety for quite a while now.  It amazes me how many of these reports are little more than preconceived packages followed by pages of charts and graphs that are obliquely concerned with the subject at hand.  

Some are blatantly biased towards helmet use as virtually the panacea of safety for motorcyclists, such as this quote from the "Motorcycle Safety Guide" published by the Centers for Disease Control; 

“Our role is to identify ways to prevent injury and death and rigorously check what works and what does not work. For motorcycle safety, the research shows that universal helmet laws are the most effective way to reduce the number of deaths and traumatic brain injuries that result from crashes.” 

Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director

Can you see the contradictions in that statement?  Either one of the two sentences in that quote is wrong, or the other one is.  It does make for a good sound bite though, doesn't it?  Let's take a look a closer look at that two sentence statement by the CDC Director.

If the CDC actually 'rigorously' checked what worked and what didn't, it would seem much more likely that they wouldn't turn to universal helmet laws as the default position for a few reasons.  The prime being is that the data doesn't show it to be true.  If it was in fact true, then those states with universal helmet laws should all have a declining fatality rate.  Wouldn't they?  If universal helmet laws were 'the most effective way' then the states with universal helmet laws should have a significantly higher percentage of states with a lower fatality rate.  Shouldn't they?  Actually, they are almost identical.  With only a slight 1.5% difference between the two sets of states.  Oddly though, it is the states without universal helmet laws that have had the largest percentage of states with a decrease in fatalities.  Now I know this doesn't mean helmets don't have an effect, it would just seem to show a helmet law isn't the end all and be all of motorcycle safety.

The entire focus on motorcyclists as being the only ones needing protection from head injury seems off kilter as well.  When asked during a hearing on a helmet law amendment hearing in 2015, a Dr. from Harborview Hospital was asked if in her opinion helmets would help to reduce head injuries among automobile crash victims.  Her reply was shocked, and somewhat short; "There's no data to show that."  The problem is, if she cared to look she could easily find that data.  The CDC published a report in 2010 on head injuries during the period of 2002-2006.  I find two of the charts quite to the point, and showing the significantly greater risk of head injury ER visits, and hospitalizations of automobile occupants than of motorcyclists.  According to the CDC, fully 35.6% of automobile crash related ER visits are due to head injury.  While only 3.4% of motorcycle crash ER visits are due to head injury.  It goes even beyond that somewhat shocking statistic.  Of those admitted to hospitals with injuries related to automobile crashes, 13% are due to head injuries, while only 2.2% of motorcycle crash victims are admitted for head injuries.  Now remember, this data is from the same CDC which stated that; "universal helmet laws are the most effective way to reduce the number of deaths and traumatic brain injuries that result from crashes.”  Does this mean the CDC would support a national, universal helmet law for automobile occupants?  I rather doubt it is a case of "what is good for the goose is good for the gander."

In conjunction with all this is NHTSA's own "estimate" that motorcycle helmets are only 37% effective in protecting motorcyclists from death and serious injury.  Then you factor in the fact that on any given year, between 40-60% of motorcycle helmets tested do not meet the federal standard.  There is also the fact that helmet manufacturers own publications state a helmet should be replaced after 3 to 5 years due to degradation of its ability to be of effective protection.  So what percentage of helmets in use today are older than that, and therefore no longer effective protection?  Another factor to consider is the percentage of helmets in use that have been subject to a "shock" or "impact" that would have destroyed it's ability to be effective?  It only takes a fall off the back of the bike, or from about waist height to become ineffective.  Experience is telling me that NHTSA's "estimate" of 37% effectiveness may be a bit on the generous side.

Another point that seems to get lost in the shuffle of 'helmet safety' facts that the universal helmet law proponents love to publish, is one fact that NHTSA itself published in 2007, and devoted all of one sentence in an already short paragraph to.  The fact was that; in one of their studies, on average, 81% of helmeted fatalities in motorcycle crashes are due to other injures.   So in roughly four out of five helmeted motorcycle fatalities the helmet would not have saved the persons life.  As I have said, helmets do have a safety effect.  Because in that same report, NHTSA showed that 64% of helmet less motorcycle fatalities died from injuries other than to the head.

Before I finish this, I'd like to tell a fairly short story that sort of highlights this whole 'helmet safety' mentality.  If I decide to ride my motorcycle without wearing a helmet in the State of Washington; and I'm not on a closed parade route, I will get quickly pulled over and cited for it.  Yet I have a friend who wanted to go for a ride, but her bike was down, so she put her helmet on anyway got in her car and rolled the windows down.  She got pulled over because she was wearing a helmet, and the cop just wanted to know what she thought she was doing since he thought it was odd behavior.  But if you really look at it in the light of all the head injury data out there, wouldn't it make sense to mandate those who have a 35.6% chance of going to the ER with a head injury in a crash than someone who only has a 3.4% chance?

Going back to that CDC study of 2010, it showed  an average of 104,366 automobile crash related head injuries per year compared to only 9,938 motorcycle crash related head injuries nationwide.  Now tell me again, why am I being forced to wear this helmet on MY head and someone with a higher risk of head injury isn't?

Think about it.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The motorcycling community in the State of Washington has the opportunity to come together and use the power of our numbers to make serious change in Olympia.  Imagine if every member of the various Motorcycle Rights Organizations in the State of Washington took 30 minutes or more to contact the candidates for legislative office in their district, and asked questions on where they stand on our issues, we could make an intelligent vote in November and shift the power structure in Olympia.  If the members of ABATE, the COC, NCOM, MRF, LAC, and others ALL contacted the candidates and spoke to them about our common issues, and voted upon the responses we were given.  The legislature would soon begin to feel the pressure the motorcycling community could bring to bear.  With over 219,000 motorcycles registered, imagine the effect if everyone who owned a motorcycle within the State of Washington contacted the candidates and based their votes on the responses to their questions on our issues. 
At times, the motorcycling community can still be too fractured and splintered to actually act in a coherent and unified manner politically.  Segments of the motorcycling community have been much more politically active than others.  But with cultural differences within the motorcycling community as it currently stands, it will take something severe to successfully mold it into anything that truly resembles unity.  Part of the trouble seems to be that the various segments of the overall motorcycling community visualize themselves as being separate and set apart.  Many times the riders of the various types of motorcycles perceive themselves as unable to be accepted by the other segments of the community, or seem unable to accept.  Whether that perception is real or not, it seems to be a factor in the slowly diminishing segmentation of the motorcycling community.  But there is hope.  As some segments of the population are reaching out to one another in an attempt to bridge some of the gaps in communications between the different subcultures of our community.  Organizations like; ABATE, the Council Of Clubs, the Motorcycle Profiling Project, the National Sport Bike Association, and the Motorcycle Rights Foundation and others are beginning to make inroads.  Spreading the concept that we must stand together to protect our Freedoms.
The realization is beginning to grow that the only way to end anti-motorcycle laws is to unite, and stand together.  The motorcycling community is beginning to set aside their differences and stand together peacefully and supportively in the fight against the violation of our Civil Rights. From our First Amendment issues of freedom of speech and association, to our Fourth Amendment Right to security in our persons and possessions from illegal search and seizures, or our Fourteenth Amendment Right to equal protection under the law, and beyond. 
There have been other groups in society that have set aside their differences and joined together to promote their common goals.  They have affected great change in the government, and have had laws passed to protect their Rights.  It took time, but as each group came to the realization that they needed to unify politically to survive, they set aside their petty differences and came together to fight for their common goals.  What finally tipped the scales, and in many cases brought the various factions together all seemed to hinge on Civil Rights.  As the realization spread that each community was having their Civil Rights violated, and that unifying to correct those violations, those communities fought back and to differing degrees changed history.
As other diverse cultures and communities have done before us, the greater motorcycling community is beginning to accept the idea that standing together in mutual self defense of our Civil Liberties is the only way we are going to survive.  When laws are passed that affect the Rights of motorcyclists; it isn’t only the Club Community, or the Sport Bike Community, or the Independent Community.  It is all the various groups within our community that are affected.  We may not generally associate together on the roadways, but we must learn to stand together politically or we will all fall separately.
The motorcycling community of Washington State needs to come together and set aside our differences in order affect true political change that will allow all of us to be able to exercise our Rights without the paternalistic mentality of some government officials and agencies from subjugating us to their own political agenda.  If even one hundredth (1/100) of the owners of the over 215,000 motorcycles in Washington State came together for a “public” event on the issues of discrimination and motorcycle profiling facing all motorcyclists in our state, can you imagine the political power we could have?  Think about that for a bit.  That would be over 2,000 motorcycles of all types coming together in unity, and peaceful protest against the anti-motorcycle laws that are discriminatingly forced into our lives.
As the Washington legislature stands at this writing, the party leaders have generally stood in paternalistic opposition to our efforts to secure the liberty to exercise our Rights, has a very narrow two seat majority in the House.  That means; that if three less Democrats are elected, or some other combination of either Republican, Libertarian or Independent are elected that reduces the number of Democrats in the House by three, the entire political make-up of the House will change.  This will cause a reshuffling of the current Committee Chairs.  This would reduce the direct power some of the staunchest obstacles to exercising our Freedoms have to merely being a single vote among a group.  Meaning that they no longer having the power to kill our bills simply by not allowing a hearing on them to be held.
By uniting to defend our Rights, and to elect those who support those Rights (no matter what their party affiliation).  The motorcycling community would be able to affect great change in the political structure of Washington State.  It will require effort, and respect for ourselves and each other.  But there are examples that show it can be done.  Before you say it “will never happen”, or “it won’t work”, take a look at what transpired on the first anniversary of the Waco Massacre on May 17th, 2016.  Representatives of motorcycle clubs from around the U.S. came together.  They set aside their differences, and stood in unity with each other at the Shamrock Cycles in Austin, Texas as part of a “National Protest Against Motorcycle Profiling and Discrimination.  Members of the Outlaws MC, the Hells Angels MC, The Mongols MC, the Vagos MC, the Hessians MC, The Sons of Silence MC, The Devils Disciples MC, the Infidels MC, the Valiants MC, the Outsiders MC, and several other motorcycle clubs all set aside their differences and came together for the common good.
Perhaps the Washington State motorcyclists should take a long hard look at the example of the Club Community in this manner.  Only by standing together, with unity of purpose, have we ever succeeded in protecting our Civil Rights.  I truly believe it is the only way that we ever will.   There are some tough fights coming up in November that will have a great affect on the motorcyclists of Washington State.  It is for us, the motorcycling community to decide whether we will stand by as our ability to exercise our Rights to be limited by a few, or stand together and insure they are supported by many.
This cannot be done by simply voting for one party or the other.  Isn’t that the same closed minded mentality that has made it difficult to unite in the first place?  That you would totally exclude voting for someone simply because they belong to a different political party?  Think about that for a few seconds.  Isn’t that like saying you are going to vote for someone whether or not they support you Right to ride free from burdensome laws, and law enforcement, simply because of the party they belong to?  Or is it better for you to vote for someone who actually supports your Right to ride freely and in the manner that you feel best protects you from all the other risks we face daily no matter what party (if any) they belong too?  If we come together, and think of ourselves as ‘motorcyclists’ not Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians; then we can elect legislators who not only support us, but who also know the power we can wield when we desire to.  We can achieve this simply by standing together for our own common goal of Freedom.
Let us come together and prune the legislature of nanny state politicians (they exist in both parties).  This will allow the Freedom minded politicians (these too exist in both parties) to work together more effectively.  Does it really make any sense to say you will only vote for candidates on the basis of the party they are in?  That is like saying you will only purchase; a motorcycle, a car or truck, or a gun of a particular make and model.  Does that make any sense?  Why limit yourself to making a choice simply by brand?  Does that really provide you with the best you can get?  If you want the best government we can have, do your homework.  Find out which candidates for the legislature (and that includes Lt, Governor and Governor) support our issues, and vote them into office.  I mean really now, does it make any sense to vote someone into office that doesn’t support our issues, just because of the party they belong to?  Let us all dump the party line, and actually vote to elect people who support us for a change.
If we stand together as motorcyclists; and respect each other within the community, even if we don’t necessarily like each other, we can accomplish great things.  So  let us show unity of purpose, and bring pressure upon the legislature to pass laws that allow us the Liberty to exercise Our Rights and live as we choose to.  Freely

Catch you on the road sometime…

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Estimates vs Facts

Experience has shown that many of the laws that restrict the liberties of citizens tend to be rooted in a combination of three things;  control, money, and paternalism.  The government agencies all; control your ability to live freely, create fees and charges for you to be able to follow their regulations and rules, create laws that are meant to protect you from your own self, and expect you to submit to the rule of their better judgement.  

Perhaps that is why when you ask a politician or a bureaucrat who supports restricting the freedoms of a group of people based on the supposed safety benefits of a law what they think of that same law being enforced on everyone, they seem to be unable to give a direct reply.  It becomes so much more difficult to trust a person who is actively pushing an agenda, but unable to answer direct questions with a direct answer, because it seems they are unwilling to state their own opinion for the record.  Sometimes people will not use actual data from sources involved directly in an issue, but will create statistics from "estimated" results from a second tier source.  Why would a person do such a thing?  Because it is easier to use "estimates" as the baseline for results, and extrapolate the desired results from those "estimates" than to use actual hard numbers which may not reflect the desired result.

What is meant by that last statement?  NHTSA "estimates" that helmets "to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders". *  In other words, according to NHTSA; "For every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets." (Note that NHTSA states "could" have been saved, not "would" have.)  By using that concept, NHTSA actually created a series of mathematical formula to demonstrate "lives saved" and the "cost savings" of motorcycle helmet use.  The trouble comes from the fact that these formula do not correlate with the actual real world figures.  However that doesn't stop those intent on protecting society from itself from using those mathematical "estimates" as the foundation of their efforts.  The actual real world results do not even appear to be a point of consideration, as they may not provide the support that the "estimates" do for those with paternalistic intentions toward society.

Here is NHTSA's own definition of the "estimates" they use to create the statistics supporting their desire for universal mandatory helmet laws. **


Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41% for motorcycle passengers.  In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.


The number of fatalities prevented (an estimate of the number of helmeted motorcyclists who were in crashes in which they would have died had they not worn their helmets).


Additional fatalities preventable at 100-percent use (an
estimate, in addition to the lives saved above, of the number of lives that could have been saved had all motorcyclists worn helmets).


The estimated amount of money, based on current-year dollars, that was saved by motorcyclists wearing helmets which prevented them from receiving fatal, serious, or minor injuries.


Additional costs savable at 100-percent helmet use (an estimate, in addition to the costs saved above, which could have been attained if all motorcyclists wore helmets)

(The five descriptions above were copied directly from the NHTSA source material, and were not altered or paraphrased by myself in anyway.)

The final estimate "Additional Costs Saved" includes such costs as "lost production expenses to employers".  With each fatality costing a lifetime of lost wages, and the loss of productivity to employers, this "estimate" can reach up into the billions of dollars each year.  All based on a mathematical formula that doesn't necessarily match the actual facts.  But as you look at all of these "estimates", do any of them seem concerned with matching the facts?  Or, are they meant to provide an overwhelming foundation of information that would appear to support NHTSA's (and the government in general) desire for safety reasons, a universal mandatory helmet law?

While I am neither a mathematician or a statistician, I do believe I am correct in believing that an estimated number and the real number are not the same.  Yet, that is precisely what NHTSA claims about their formula to find the number of lives saved.  "The first step in determining the number of lives that were saved by motorcycle helmets is to ascertain the number of motorcyclists who died while wearing a helmet. This can be done because the effectiveness of helmets in saving lives is known."  However, NHTSA admits that the effectiveness of motorcycle helmets is only "estimated to be 37%".  So which is it, an "estimate" or a "known"?

Again when it comes to the number "of lives that could have been saved", an "estimate" is used to represent an actual true multiplying factor, not an estimated number.  "The number of lives that could have been saved if every motorcyclist involved in a fatal crash had been wearing a helmet can also be determined. This additional calculation of lives saved by 100-percent helmet use multiplies
the corresponding effectiveness estimate by the number of unhelmeted riders or passengers. This provides the number of these motorcyclists that would have lived had they been wearing a helmet."    By doing this, NHTSA is creating the perception that the data that supports their position is accurate.  Which, as can be shown using Michigan as an example, it is far from accurate.

In her February 9, 2015 testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee on SB5198 Dr, Beth Ebel stated; "Michigan, as was cited before, they estimate 24 more deaths on average per year, after they repealed their helmet law...71 more serious injuries...per year."  This is, according to Dr. Ebel, from a "study" done by the University of Michigan after the 2012 repeal of the helmet law.  However, if you look at the actual numbers from Michigan, an entirely different picture comes into focus.  According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, in 2012 there were 129 motorcycle deaths in Michigan.  In 2013 that number had dropped slightly to 128.  In 2014, it had dropped to 107.  The number of crashes and injuries also dropped.  Quite different than the "estimate" that NHTSA and the University of Michigan study Dr. Ebel testified about predicted.

This would seem to raise questions about the "quality" of the studies that Dr. Ebel and others in the paternalist community speak of and value so highly.  If "quality" studies are this inaccurate, it brings to question by what standards the "quality" studies she speaks of are based on.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word estimate as; "to judge tentatively or approximately the value, worth, or significance of".  The Thesaurus says that "estimate" is another word for "guess".  

Should the government really be making policy based on guesses?  How much faith should be placed in those who oppose allowing citizens to exercise their Rights based upon those "guesses"?  Especially if they oppose real world data, and base that opposition on guess work?  If the actual data is in conflict with the "estimate", what sort of person chooses the "estimate" over the  reality?  Should the citizens liberties be restricted by those who accept guesses as fact, and facts to not be of "quality" simply because the facts are in conflict with the guess they base their position on?  

What do you think?

Catch you on the road sometime...

* NHTSA  Traffic Safety Facts 2012 Data, pg. 7  June 2014
** NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, Research Note, "Determining Estimates of Lives and Costs Saved by Motorcycle Helmets", March 2011