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…