Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Efforts to pass new helmet laws intensify -

Efforts to pass new helmet laws intensify -

My comments posted to this article on-line:

There are some aspects of this we are missing.

One is that the number of motorcycle fatalities has increased despite the overwhelming number of riders wearing helmets. Using the death statistic to justify legislation is a lot like blaming the victim. Because we have criminals who are motivated to rape, should all women be required to be kept safe under the supervision of a father or husband protector? No, we know it is better to go after the criminals. Saying that we need a law requiring helmets because of this statistic is blaming the victim.

Second, the issue of costs associated with accidents should be contained by the liability of the party at fault regardless of the type of vehicle or amount of armor the victim purchases. Part of the problem is our "no fault" culture which allows the amortization of the consequences of irresponsible behavior across the entire population and increasingly fails to penalize poor drivers or reward better drivers.

Third, and maybe most important, what is being missed is that the motorcycle numbers are "the canary in the coal mine" telling us that something, not related to whether helmets are worn, is wrong. Legislators jumping on helmet laws are simply ripping off the public by trying to make it look like they are doing something to address the problem, when in fact they are lacking in wisdom and in denial about their ignorance concerning the real underlying causes.

I work and live in the DC area. I ride a motorcycle. I was rear-ended last May. I can tell you a lot about the travesty of how the legal system and insurance industry works to contain costs by withholding medical care while at the same time increasing the compensation of their leaders and executives. If you do not have medical insurance and can't afford a lawyer or are not so clearly the wronged party as to invite one, you will not receive adequate examination and treatment. Doctors are discouraged from performing MRI's on head injuries unless symptoms are severe. You can have head and spinal injuries that will not show up until long after you have been financially pressured into a settlement. Thank heavens, the other party was clearly at fault and I found an attorney.

What I also learned from this accident an another I witnessed when another aggressive drive rear ended a friend on the same street just a few blocks south a few months earlier, was that both the offending drivers were immigrants. I think it is clear that a key to highway safety is better education. Before we inflict upon the victims of these crimes additional legal requirements, let us examine how governments have been negligent in providing driver education and assuring that other drivers are taught the aspects of safe and courteous behavior that we want to expect on our roads.

I don't mean to pick on immigrants specifically, but anyone who has driven in as many foreign lands as I have knows that there are vastly different levels of acceptable behavior. Before foreigners drive on our highways and streets, we need to be sure they have been instructed in what we expect of drivers who we entitle to conduct vehicles on our public roads. That means that we must have such standards and teach such standards and enforce them.

The fact is that formal drivers education is not a requirement of public education in this country. Neither is it a requirement of licensing (except for additional endorsements). It needs to be.

Moreover, highway safety enforcement assets need to be redirected away from revenue generating activities such as speed limit enforcement that do not always correlate with safety (when the flow of traffic averages ten to fifteen mph above posted limits, legal behavior increases risks) and begin enforcing better standards of conduct: right of way violations.

I guarantee you that if we begin putting camera-equipped police on unmarked motorcycles who hand out hefty tickets for aggressive and discourteous behavior, people will have no trouble spotting motorcycles in the future.

The bottom line is that we have more people on the roads. Our culture is increasingly tolerant of irresponsible and disrespectful behavior and the notion that might makes right, so motorcycles lose. Change that trend and you have a solution to many problems.

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