8 Ball In The Wind

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Lane Filtering Or Lane Sharing?

The question seems to arise each time someone discusses the technique of lane "sharing" or lane "filtering".  While the two are quite similar, there is a subtle difference between them.  Lane "filtering" actually takes place not on freeways and open highways, but on city streets.  Lane "filtering" is when a motorcyclist moves up between lanes of stopped or slow moving traffic to the intersection, and then proceeds on when the traffic control signal allows it.

Lane Filtering

Lane "sharing" is actually on highways and freeways.  Again, only among slow moving or stopped traffic.  Usually traffic flowing at speeds of 35 mph or less, and with a speed differential of no more than 10 mph above the speed of traffic flow.  That 10 mph speed differential has two purposes, both safety related.  The first purpose is to allow the motorcycle lane sharing to overtake vehicles safely and quickly.  The second is to ensure a stable motorcycle speed to safely travel between the lanes of traffic.

Lane Sharing

Lane Filtering

Lane Filtering

Lane Filtering

A study done in Belgium in 2011 showed that if only 10% of commuters rode motorcycles and lane "shared" it would reduce congestion by up to 40%, and overall average commute times for all commuters by up to 20 minutes.  Currently in Washington, we are hovering around 5% of commuters on motorcycles.  Imagine how much traffic could be reduced if that 5% were allowed to lane "share" and not take up the same space on the highway as a car.  Lower commute times would also correlate to lower emissions and a lower level of stress for all highway users.

In 2014 there were two studies done in California on the safety of lane sharing for the California Highway Patrol.  A 2015 follow-up study all showed the same information.  Motorcyclists who lane "shared" were shown to be; less likely to be involved in an accident, more likely to wear full safety gear, more experienced riders.  The studies also showed that crashes among those lane "sharing" were much less frequent than other motorcyclists.  The accidents that did occur; tended to be much less severe, with a greatly reduced risk of both serious and fatal injuries.

Now that you have the basics of the difference between lane "sharing" and lane "filtering" it should aid you in discussing the issue with your friends, acquaintances, and hopefully even your legislators.  Perhaps you have noticed that I did not mention lane "splitting".  That is because lane "splitting" is the same as lane "sharing" except at full highway speeds.  Lane "splitting" tends to provide much less reaction time, and should only be performed by experienced riders.  If the speed differential is still close to that 10 mph level, it can also be performed relatively safely.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Say What!?!

What did she say!?!  

After Pediatrician Dr. Beth Ebel testified in a Senate Committee hearing on a bill to amend the mandatory helmet law on how motorcycle helmets save lives, and reduce injuries for motorcyclists, so that they mandatory helmet law should not be amended.  Senator Don Benton then asked her if she thought if automobile drivers should be mandated to wear helmets.  

Her reply was that "there is no evidence for that."  Odd for a Dr. to say that.  Especially when according to the CDC, the number two cause of traumatic brain injuries is automobile crashes (second only to falls).  As a physician, she should know that.  Her testimony is a prime example of the paternalistic attitude that seems to be so pervasive in much of society today,  

She is trying to "protect" those who ride motorcycles from the possible effects of their choices.  But that same protection being mandated for her, and all bets are off.  If helmets are effective enough to force others to wear them, then the people who more often could benefit from them should be forced to as well.  What is good for the goose is good for the gander.  So either let me choose whether or not to wear that coconut on my head, or strap one on yourself and see how you like it.  Either the helmets 37% effectiveness rating is good enough to mandate wearing them for everyone, or it isnt good enough for anyone to be forced to wear them.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Minority Report

ABATE of Washington's Black Thursday 2016

With the upcoming election in November there is a lot that could possibly negate, or at the least alter many of the things we have been working towards these past few months.  With a Republican majority in the Senate, and a very narrow two seat Democrat majority in the House, the structure of the Legislature in Olympia could be drastically altered come the results of the election.  Already there is going to be several changes in the State Senate.  With retirements, and several Senators running for Lt. Governor, there will be new faces in the Senate.  If the House majority should change to the Republicans after the election, many of the current obstacles to the legislation we have been working on for so long will be gone, or at least extremely weakened.  However, if the Democrats gain the majority in the Senate, it could easily change the entire paradigm for motorcycle rights organizations and our efforts in Washington State.

As motorcyclists; we are best suited to choose for ourselves what to wear when riding,  Not some legislator who does not ride, and more than likely doesn't understand (or refuses to) our resistance to the government controlling what and how we ride.  Instead of allowing us the liberty to exercise our Right to self-determination of what is the proper level of protective gear; the bureaucrats in government agencies and their legislative allies seem determined to "nail sandals on the feet of the natives", and force us all to wear what they believe will protect us from ourselves.  

This argument is rather hypocritical when you look at it with something resembling objectivity.  Those legislators and bureaucrats that say that they oppose amending Washington State's mandatory helmet law because motorcycle helmets protect us from head injuries; whether intentionally or not, are restricting the Rights of a minority while neglecting the same risk to the majority of highway users.  What is meant by that statement?  I'll let the opening sentence from the website TraumaticBrainInjury.com help you to better understand; "Over half of all reported traumatic brain injuries are the result of an automobile accident."  Even the Centers for Disease Control stated in their seventy-two page Report To Congress: Traumatic Brain Injury In The United States that the leading cause of TBI related deaths is motor vehicle crashes.  Look at those statements dispassionately if you can.  

While motorcycle crashes are thrown in with all other motor vehicle crashes; the Washington State Traffic Safety Board in testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee testified that motorcycle crashes account for 14% of highway injuries.  So approximately one eighth (1/8) of all motor vehicle crash injuries in Washington State are motorcycle related.  Therefore, seven eighths (7/8) of all motor vehicle crashes in Washington State do not involve motorcycles.  Yet we are the ones forced to wear helmets that have been shown can put riders at higher risk of neck injuries, skull fractures, and even brain stem injuries.  Studies have also shown that while 23% of motorcycle crashes result in TBI, 29% of automobile crashes result in TBI.  That is a significantly higher percentage of a much larger real number of crashes.  All while the majority of motor vehicle occupants are not forced to endure the same risks, but are allowed to participate in activity that puts them at a higher risk of TBI than motorcyclists.  That would certainly not seem to be "equal protection under the law", which would appear to be a violation of the US Constitutions 14th Amendment.  

While the majority of states in the country allow the freedom of choice, Washington remains locked into the minority of states that refuse to allow its motorcycling citizens the Right to choose for themselves what is the proper level of protection at any given time when they ride.  As an example of this point, on January 31st, 2013 at the beginning of a Senate Committee hearing on SB5143 that he sponsored; Senator Don Benton (R 17th Dist.) made a comment that perhaps they should mandate all automobile occupants to wear a helmet.  Virtually the entire Committee laughed at the idea.  They knew that the vast majority of the voters would not stand for being forced to wear a helmet while in their automobiles.  Motorcyclists aren't the majority of voters, so the legislators jobs weren't going to be affected by being seen by the majority to be "protecting" motorcyclists.  Even when they understood that protection was only symbolic, and put motorcyclists at a higher risk for neck, spinal injuries and death due to wearing of motorcycle helmets.

The mindset that these bureaucrats and their friends have is similar in some ways to that of their counterparts of the past in regards to indigenous peoples across North America, and around the world.  Misguided efforts that supposedly "protected" those indigenous peoples were nothing more than restrictive controlling policies on a minority that had little or no political influence of their own, and did not fit the political agenda of the societal leadership or the bureaucrats that served to regulate and enforce the governments now renounced and scandalized policies.  

Slowly however, the realization is coming to legislators across the US that motorcyclists are not the weak disorganized minority that the stereotypical "biker" suggests.  More and more state legislators are allowing motorcyclists the liberty to exercise their Rights.  While the fight ahead will be a tough one if the November election goes against us; this community will continue to fight on in defense of our Rights which the government chooses to restrict our ability to exercise.  

To paraphrase a statement much loved by the far left of the political spectrum; "If allowing motorcycling to choose when and wear, or if, to wear a motorcycle helmet saves even one life, it'll be worth it."

Catch you on the road sometime...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

An Example of Lane Splitting

When we talk about lane splitting here in Washington State, the following clip demonstrates what we are talking about.  As you will see, there is plenty of room between lanes for the motorcycle to pass between.  The revving of the riders motor serves a couple of purposes.  One, he is alerting people outside of their vehicles to his presence, and also he is helping his motor not to "load up" with fuel.  There isn't any real excessive speed used.  While this video is a bit long; it does demonstrate quite well just how much room there is between lanes, and how easily a motorcyclist can utilize a portion of that space with just a little common sense and skill.

As you watch this video, think of how much less congested traffic could be if all the motorcycles seen in the video were not also parked in traffic.  But instead were moving between the lanes, and making room for other vehicles to move forward as well.  Also note, although it is a moot point in this video; that if there had been a collision between the motorcycle and any of the numerous vehicles being passed they would have been glancing, "sideswipe" blows, and not the much more severe direct impacts of either being rear ended or rear ending another vehicle.  

Catch you on the road sometime...