|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...