During the Senate Transportation hearing on Monday January 30th, the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Traffic Safety Board offered little in way of opposition in its testimony before the Committee. You can watch the hearing here, and the motorcycle related bills portion of the clip begins at the 25:00 mark.
After about thirty-eight minutes of testimony by the supporters of the two motorcycle related bills, and questions from the committee, the WSP and WSTB gave only about six minutes of testimony combined.
The actual testimony against helmets was primarily how Capt. Alexander had been to more fatal accidents than she would "care to talk about", and that she didn't want to ever "have to deliver another death notification." Both are genuine human reactions, but they speak more to the trauma a WSP trooper sees in a twenty plus year career than to the actual bill before the committee. In her testimony on SB5378, that drivers "often don't have a good view of what is on either side of them."
Not exactly the most strident opposing testimony I have ever heard. The WSP did state there was a fiscal expense related to both bills, but it was "indeterminate" because they had no idea of how many additional hours troopers may have to work investigating an unknown number of possible accidents. So they do not even know whether there will be an increase in accidents, they simply assume so with out looking at the evidence. There is evidence to look at, in the other states that have amended their helmet laws.
The WTSB provided the committee with a graph showing the fatality stats of the past few years, claiming they showed "it has been pretty flat" with little change. However when examined, the rate has been fluctuating over a 17% range. At least according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not quite the "flat" level rate that they claim. Even some of the committee members showed doubts as to the WTSB's numbers.
One of the facts the WTSB brought to the committee was that 93% of the motorcycle fatalities over the last five years were helmeted.
Perhaps a more significant statistic might well be that 24% of the fatalities "were unendorsed." What result would it have if law enforcement actually began enforcing the current laws on motorcycle riders operating a motorcycle without an endorsement? The same question applies to riders under the influence, and "distracted" riders, what would be the result for the motorcycling community then? When we stop accounting for 17% of the fatalities in the state, while only making up 4% of the registered vehicles?
I seriously doubt it. At least not as long as the state continues to look at motorcycles and other motor vehicles in the same way. We are different in many ways. A motorcycle doesn't have; a metal cage around the rider, or air bags, or crumple zones, or anything else the average motor vehicle has. A motorcycle's "safety equipment" is in its maneuverability, acceleration, and braking ability. And, ultimately in the riders skill and apparel when they crash. When the state removes a bikes ability to move in traffic, it removes one of a motorcyclists biggest pieces of protection against crashes, This prevents us from being able to move effectively and utilize the motorcycles abilities. For example, ask any senior motorcycle safety trainer whether a motorcyclist would have enough time to avoid a rear end collision when sitting behind another stopped vehicle, or if they would have a better opportunity to avoid the collision if they were already moving forward in a safe and prudent manner through traffic?
Think about it,
and I'll catch you on the road sometime...