Archive for the ‘Helmet Laws’ Category

Bias And Jumping To Conclusions

Monday, September 19th, 2016

I was at my ABATE District 10 meeting on Sunday and the topic arose of the Michigan legislator who sponsored the repeal of that state’s helmet law and who just this past week was killed riding his motorcycle. The discussion was about how the media played up the fact that he sponsored that bill and then died on his bike–as if the two were in any way related.

Pete Pettalia

Pete Pettalia

Pete Pettalia was wearing a helmet. Let’s get clear on that right up front. There is no irony here.

So my curiosity was piqued and I came home and googled the incident to see how it was reported. I don’t know, maybe the writers/editors have gone back and revised earlier reports but every report I read either said he was wearing a helmet or that, at the time of writing, details of that sort had not yet been released by the police.

Whatever the media response, it all missed the real issue while sometimes going after what was not the issue. That is, helmets were not the issue; the issue was once again someone in a car or truck turning in front of someone on a motorcycle. A right-of-way violation. And as Pettalia’s death shows, wearing a helmet frequently will not save your life. His helmet was irrelevant; the violation of his right-of-way meant everything. That’s the issue.

Nevertheless, the internet trolls got busy right away, who cares about facts?

A Michigan-focused website called MLive ran a piece about the crash and fatality at a point that was probably too early for the facts about the helmet to have been released.

That didn’t stop the trolls:
flint style coney: he was exercising his personal right to operate his motorcycle unsafely. he advocated for people to do the same, and many died as a result. these deaths are tragic losses.

To which MlxPlant replied: @flint style coney Let’s see…he was wearing a helmet. The other vehicle pulled out in front of him. Who bears the brunt of this fault?


And from manthor: @Frog City Council @MackFloating Police report he WAS. Can you not read?

So md22mdrx suggested: It’s not the helmet, it’s the motorcycle. Motorcycles are deathtraps. Don’t ever let a friend or family member get on one. If you don’t wear a helmet on top of it? The idiocy of people knows no bounds. Darwin Award.

To which MlxPlant replied: @md22mdrx The lack of compassion of people knows no bounds. The driver failed to yield to the right of way and you blame the motorcycle. You are no better than someone who blames the victim for a rape.

Kind of getting to like MlxPlant, aren’t we?

People like these are the reason we needs motorcyclist rights organizations such as ABATE and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.

Biker Quote for Today

I am a biker, not your next roadkill. Get off the phone and open your eyes.

New Colorado Helmet Law Threatening

Monday, December 29th, 2014
Motorcycle helmets

A bill to bring back a universal Colorado helmet law appears to be in the offing.

The legislative update at our ABATE of Colorado D-10 meeting on Sunday brought news of a bill possibly in the offing that would reinstitute a helmet law here.

According to State Coordinator Bruce Downs, Rep. Paul Rosenthal had first stated that he would definitely such a bill in the upcoming session. Rosenthal then apparently backed off from that, indicating that he might work on developing a base with an eye toward introducing such a bill in the 2016 session.

ABATE has been cooperating with two other major motorcycle groups in the state, the Colorado Confederation of Clubs and the US Defenders, preparing to fight any such bill.

The groups have put together a letter that will be made available at numerous motorcycle events, such as ABATE’s Last Brass Monkey Run this week and the Colorado Motorcycle Expo (formerly Colorado Motorcycle Show and Swap). Riders will be asked to sign the letter and provide their address, and then the letters will be sorted by the signer’s representative. Should a bill be introduced at any point the letters will be hand delivered to the appropriate representative.

The idea is to be ready, and hopefully to have thousands of signed letters in hand to be delivered.

“There’s no way this is going away,” said Bruce of the attempt to reinstate the helmet law.

According to Bruce, the organizations sought a meeting with Rosenthal to discuss the issue but the representative made it clear he would not be swayed by their arguments.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, 35

Biker Quote for Today

Full Throttle – solves the problem or ends the suspense.

Motorcycle Bills Dying on Both Sides of Us

Thursday, February 13th, 2014
motorcyclists riding without helmets

Can you tell these folks aren't in Nebraska?

If you live in Colorado there’s a good chance you occasionally ride in Utah and Nebraska, east and west of us. This current legislative session they’ve both had some potentially good bills introduced that have to do with motorcycles, but it doesn’t look like anything will make it into law.

In Utah they have a bill that would allow lane-splitting. Lane-splitting is when bikes go down the road between cars when the cars are stopped or slowed way down in traffic jams. California is the only U.S. state that currently allows this, and it works fine there. More than that, the rest of the world does it and it works fine all over the world. Go to Paris or Rome or just about any place of your choosing and see how well it works. Why do we have to be the dummies who think there’s something wrong with this?

Well, Utah is going to stay a dummy. According to a story in the Deseret News, “Several members of the House Transportation Committee said they had safety concerns about HB281, and they voted 7-1 to table the measure until more study is done.” Can you say “dead”? Why this euphemism about “tabled”? Well the guy who introduced it–a Republican I will note–said he’ll reintroduce it next session. Till then . . .

Over in Nebraska they’ve been kicking around the idea of repealing their helmet law. I don’t care how stupid you might think anyone is to ride without a helmet, I simply believe it should be the rider’s choice. I always wear a helmet these days (not true in my younger days) and so this law would have no effect on me, but I just don’t think it’s the government’s place to forcing us to be “safe.” Why don’t they outlaw using cell phones when you’re driving? They’d save more lives that way, if that was truly what they cared about. Of course they’d save even more lives if they just outlawed motor vehicles. You know what they say: If it saves even just one life . . . !

So will you be able to ride lidless in Nebraska soon? Not likely. As in, fat chance.

They do apparently have the votes to make it happen, if it could just come to a vote. But guess what? The opponents are filibustering it. Who cares what the majority wants, if we can keep it from coming to a vote the minority rules! I couldn’t have been more pleased when the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the filibuster rules there. The Republicans screamed bloody murder but you better believe they’ll be overjoyed for what Harry has done the next time they’re in the majority.

But hey, it’s just like baseball: There’s always next year.

Biker Quote for Today

“The motorcycle, being poorly designed for both flight and marine operation, sustained significant external and internal damage,” police noted.

Free App Provides State Helmet Law Info And More

Thursday, February 14th, 2013
Helmet Law App

You can get a free app that will tell you the helmet laws in every state.

I guess if you always wear your helmet it doesn’t matter what the helmet laws are in different states. But if you sometimes like to go without, you know how important it is to laws in different states you might ride in. There’s an app for that.

I got an email yesterday from Catherine Kazda at Buckfire & Buckfire, PC–which is to say they are attorneys–plugging this new app they have made available on their site for no charge. It will give you not only the state by state laws in the U.S., but also has information on Canada and Europe. Maybe some other places as well–I forget. The video goes into all that but my memory isn’t that good.

So it’s kind of a good idea. And I think it’s probably a great promotional idea for them. They apparently deal in motorcycle crash litigation so of course they want bikers coming to their website.

The app offers other information as well. It basically covers motorcycle laws in general, not just helmet laws. And they have a link on it to information on what to do if you’re involved in a crash. I’m sure one of the things it tells you to do is call an attorney, preferably Buckfire & Buckfire. But OK, it’s still probably good information.

So hey guys, your marketing plan is working. I’m passing this along, and I have already seen a link to some other site that did so, too.

Of course there is one other way to get all this information, though I don’t know if it’s quite as easy as a smartphone app. You can go to the American Motorcyclist Association site, to their page where they list all the state-by-state info.

And I guess I might as well tell a couple stories here because they’re totally related.

The first time John and Bill and I came down into Nebraska from the Black Hills we stopped at a wayside picnic area and got to talking to a guy there. Somewhere along the way he mentioned that we ought to be aware that “Nebraska is a bucket state.” He had seen us ride in without our helmets on. OK, thanks.

Another time, our first time in Nevada, we pulled into Vegas–coming from Arizona, I guess–and it wasn’t until after we had checked in to a hotel that we learned Nevada is a helmet state, too. We hadn’t been wearing ours. Oops. After that we made it a point to find out about states we were going to before we went there.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle safety studies continue

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you grab for your hairbrush before your old lady.

Rider Training Program Threatened

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Are you aware that when you renew your plates on your motorcycle(s) each year in Colorado you pay $4 that goes into a fund to help defray the cost of rider training courses? Also, anyone renewing their driver’s license with motorcycle accreditation pays an extra $2 that goes to the same fund.

MOST logoThis is all set in place because some years ago the motorcycling community asked for it. The general idea is that it is a good thing for everybody to have the folks riding motorcycles actually get some training so they can do it competently. The accompanying concept was that such a program could help to forestall proposals that Colorado institute a mandatory helmet law. That is to say, education and better riding skills do more to prevent traffic fatalities than wearing helmets. Or, to put it differently, crash prevention is better than having safer crashes.

Regardless of how you might feel about helmet laws, I don’t see how anyone can argue that it is not better to avoid crashing than to crash and not get hurt so badly.

The vehicle for this funneling of fees to rider training is Colorado’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program or MOST. MOST is now under attack, in some cases from organizations that originally supported its creation.

I could go on at great length with the history and background of what is currently going on, as ABATE of Colorado’s State Coordinator Terry Howard did with me, but I’ll give you the short version.

ABATE, Riders for Justice, some of the motorcycle clubs, dealerships, and others pushed for the training approach. Over the years the program was not given sufficient oversight and some problems developed. The Colorado Legislature this past year conducted an audit of the program and identified a number of issues. Several of those issues were immediately addressed and rectified and the rest will soon have been fixed.

In the meantime, however, new people have replaced the old, and in organizations such as the Colorado Confederation of Clubs (COC) which came into existence later, there is no understanding of the history of and reasons for the fees. Some of the previous supporters are now saying, “Why should we have to pay to reduce the cost for other people to learn to ride?”

In a twist that gives fits to Terry Howard, a Republican, the legislative audit committee was divided on party lines–with the Republicans being the ones she finds herself in opposition to. In the current anti-tax atmosphere, the Republicans on the committee are in favor of eliminating MOST and letting us keep our $4 and $2 fees. It is the Democrats who are saying, “The motorcyclists asked for this program, and for these fees to be levied on them, so let’s keep the fees and keep the program they fund.”

One other thing to keep in mind: If MOST is killed there is no certainty that the fees will be eliminated. We could end up paying the fees without getting the benefit.

The committee deadlocked in this past session, but it seems likely that Republican Rep. Marsha Looper, of Colorado Springs, will introduce legislation in the next session to kill MOST. This would be a good topic for all Colorado motorcyclists to learn more about, and then do what you can to educate your legislators, whether you support MOST or oppose it. Most of them don’t know anything at all about it.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
NHTSA proposes additional naturalistic motorcycle safety study

Biker Quote for Today

Statistics show that most solo motorcycle accidents are caused by a defective nut holding the handlebars.

From the Government and Here to Help–Right!

Monday, December 13th, 2010

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) sent out a release the other day that will make you just shake your head. They tell about a recent meeting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) where the gap between the motorcyclists and the safety bureaucrats could not have been wider.

Motorcycle Riders Foundation logoRather than paraphrase it all I’ll just quote from the release:

The government safety group continues to deny that the recent drop in motorcycle fatalities could have anything to do with education and awareness, instead maintaining that that the decrease was a result of people riding less. However, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) reported that during the same time period, 2008-2009, vehicle miles traveled for motorcycles were up 6.8% or 27.6 billion miles in the U.S. The MIC also reported that tire sales, a unique measure of motorcycle use, were also up 9.6% in 2008-2009.

NHTSA also continued to defend their discriminatory practice of funding motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints, including their recent $40,000 award to Georgia’s Department of Public Safety. The idea is based on no science or research, but simply the notion that pulling every motorcycle off the road at the discretion of law enforcement will “save lives.”

Another interesting note in this broadly focused release is information on how the incoming Republican Congressional leadership relates to the motorcycling community. The MRF says that John Boehner (R-OH), who will be the next Speaker of the House, “has been a long-time friend of the MRF and ABATE of Ohio, and we look forward to continuing working with him in his new role.”

The MRF also notes that “The new chair of the powerful U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) will be John Mica (R-FL). Representative Mica has been a constant supporter of the MRF and all of our initiatives, as well as a very staunch advocate for ABATE of Florida.”

That bit about Boehner puts an interesting perspective on things. I know that for far-left Democrats, Boehner is seen as really evil. And yet if you’re a motorcyclist you have to think that maybe there’s more to him than just “evil.” It goes both ways, of course. Far-right Republicans also seem to see certain Democrats as pure evil. Gosh, maybe that’s not really true.

You’ll notice I used the terms “far-left” and “far-right” rather than just “Democrats” or “Republicans.” That’s to make the point that most Americans are much closer to the middle than to the extremes, regardless of which party they’re affiliated with.

Excuse the political interjection into what is normally a motorcycle-focused blog, but just this morning I’ve been watching online the launch of an organization called No Labels, website The group’s basis is in pushing elected officials of both parties to put aside partisan bickering and do what’s right for the country. Wow, what a concept.

I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll stop demonizing your guy if you’ll stop demonizing mine. And then let’s both push them to get things done to get this country moving again, even if it means compromising with each other.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Holiday gifts for motorcyclists

Biker Quote for Today

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today. –James Dean

Know State Motorcycle Laws When You Travel

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The OFMC at a stop

We were coming down from the Black Hills and had been in Nebraska for about an hour when we stopped at a table along the road. There was another guy there, in a car, and we struck up a conversation with him. Along the way he mentioned, “This is a bucket state, by the way.”

Oh really? We hadn’t known that and we had been riding without helmets on. Oops. We had done the same thing a year or two earlier when we rode into Nevada for the first time. Somehow we got all the way to Las Vegas before we learned they required helmets.

Of course that was a long time ago, before the Internet, and we could be excused our ignorance. Back then it wasn’t easy to know what different state laws are. And if a state does require helmets, why the heck don’t they put up a sign at the border that says so?

There’s no excuse anymore for being ignorant of the laws in a state you’ll be riding to. The Internet does exist now, and one excellent place to check up on all states is a handy page on the American Motorcyclist Association’s website. You go there and there’s a map of the U.S. Click on the state you want to know about and it takes you to a listing of what they require and forbid.

The very first item on the list, presumably because this is the most common question, is the helmet requirements, if any. Other information includes the following:

  • Safety Helmet
  • State Funded Rider Ed
  • Eye Protection
  • Daytime Use of Headlight
  • Passenger Seat
  • Passenger Footrest
  • Passenger Age Restriction
  • Helmet Speakers
  • Periodic Safety Inspection
  • Mirror Left(L) Right(R)
  • Radar Detector
  • Turn Signals
  • Muffler
  • Maximum Sound Level
  • State Insurance Requirements
  • Handlebar Height
  • Rider-Education
  • Accept Motorcycle Endorsement From Other States
  • Accept RiderEd Completion Card From Other States
  • Motorcycles operating two abreast in same lane
  • Lane Splitting
  • Lemon Law Coverage

I’ll bet you didn’t even know that some states have requirements or prohibitions in some of these areas. Heck, you might even learn something about your own state laws.

Any by the way, the page also has separate legal requirements for off-road bikes. All in all it’s a lot of good information.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Fly and be groped or ride and have fun: Your choice

Biker Quote for Today

Remember when sex was safe and motorcycles were dangerous?

Rider Training Funds Still Threatened

Friday, October 17th, 2008

What Mary Peters started, others seek to continue. I’ve given considerable coverage to the proposal by U.S. Sec. of Transportation Mary Peters that funds earmarked for motorcycle rider training be diverted to lobby for mandatory helmet laws.

Experienced Rider cardPretty much all major motorcycling organizations have opposed that, and I reported in a report from the Meeting of the Minds that Peters has backed off on that proposal. Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) President Kirk “Hardtail” Willard cautioned me that despite her statements in that regard, he was still waiting to see her send the letters to that effect to the states.

Well, now the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports in the latest issue of American Motorcyclist that a group called the Governors Highway Safety Association has now taken up the issue. American Motorcyclist says:

Christopher Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety agencies, made the request in testimony to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit this summer.

The opposition to this misuse of funds stems from the conviction that the key to lowering fatality rates is not in having safer crashes, it is in avoiding more of those crashes in the first place. As Doc Ski noted at the Meeting of the Minds, you will die if you get in a bad enough accident, regardless of whether you’re wearing a helmet.

So Mary Peters may have heeded the outcry and reversed her stance, but now that the genie has been let out of the bottle it may not be that easy to put it back in. This is why we need to support organizations like the AMA and the MRF.

Biker Quote for Today

Thin leather looks good in the bar, but it won’t save your butt from road rash if you go down.

Report from MotM: Issues We Will Soon Face

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

A big part of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation’s Meeting of the Minds, which took place here in Denver last weekend, is looking ahead to the issues we as motorcyclists are likely to face in the near future. Rather than simply react, the MRF wants to be proactive. Rather than scramble in a disorganized fashion for responses when new legislation is proposed, the MRF wants to have its position and its talking points already determined and disseminated to its membership.

So just what are the issues that appear to be on the horizon? Here are the ones I gleaned from my discussion with MRF President Kirk “Hardtail” Willard, from the various speakers, and from the audience during open discussion.

  • Rider and motorist training
    The MRF and the state motorcyclist rights organizations (SMRO) that are its constituent groups strongly advocate for rider and motorist training. However, they are concerned about a move to make such training mandatory, because they fear that the capacity does not exist to offer that training to that many people. This looks like it could be a balancing act.
  • Health insurance
    Not so much on the horizon as current, this issue has to do with efforts to pass the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act, and end the legal ability of insurance companies to refuse to provide benefits when someone is injured while engaged in legal but so-called “risky” activities. I’ve written about this before.
  • Protecting 2010 funds
    The so-called 2010 funds are the dollars earmarked by government for rider training programs. You’ll recall that I’ve written about U.S. Dept. of Transportation Sec. Mary Peters’ efforts to divert some of this money to promote mandatory helmet legislation. There are other threats to this money as well. When states run into budget difficulties these funds are attractive to politicians as a way to balance the budget, regardless of the fact that they are often paid solely by motorcyclists for motorcycle-related purposes.
  • The Transportation Equity Act
    This pending bill will have major influence on highway spending in coming years. The MRF wants to ensure that motorcyclists are included in the planning and not just an afterthought.
  • Graduated licensing
    From what I understand, graduated licensing is very common in Europe. This means that you start out on a small bike, learn to ride, and as you demonstrate competency you earn the right to ride bigger and bigger bikes. Frankly, I’m not clear on the issues here, or the concerns the MRF has about this. I’ll try to find out more and address this issue again.
  • Right to repair
    This issue was raised during a panel discussion on Saturday, with two Harley-Davidson representatives on the panel being addressed. Speakers from the floor expressed their unhappiness with computer chips that shut down the bike when non-H-D mechanics work on them. The reps replied that the computer chips do allow some modification, whereas some governmental agencies are pressing for simply welding carburetors and exhaust pipes on permanently.

There’s more, but this gives you a bit of an idea about what’s going on. It is inevitable that you’ll be hearing more about these issues.

Biker Quote for Today

The biggest problem facing motorcyclists today is that we live in a nanny state, and if people think you can “save just one life” by banning motorcycles, they’d do it. — Jay Leno

Report from MotM: A Failed Safety Paradigm

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Let’s start with two statements that I think we can all agree on:

1. Helmets would not be an issue if motorcycles did not get in crashes.

2. It is crashes, not the failure to wear a helmet, that kills motorcyclists.

Speaking Friday at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation‘s Meeting of the Minds here in Denver, “Doc Ski” Wasileski, Ph.D., addressed the issue of rider safety in a talk titled “A Failed Safety Paradigm.” And the point Doc Ski made can be summed up as such: “If you get in a bad enough crash, you’re gonna die. Crashes kill bikers. Crash prevention saves lives.”

Doc Ski argued that ever since the Hurt Report, “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures,” the government agencies involved in transportation safety have followed the approach of working for crash mitigation. That is, safer crashes. In cars that means seat belts and air bags and other clearly effective means. When it comes to motorcycles, however, the idea of safer crashes does not work as well. As Doc Ski said, you will die if you get in a bad enough accident, regardless of whether you’re wearing a helmet.

Thus the failed paradigm. Doc Ski, who serves as the MRF’s resident statistician, quoted his own studies that show no statistical difference in fatality rates between states with mandatory helmet laws and states with no helmet laws. And he echoed the MRF’s position that rider training, motorist share-the-road training, and impaired riding programs are what lower fatality rates, not stricter protective requirements and vehicle design modifications.

Nevertheless, as many speakers stated repeatedly over the course of the conference, stricter regulation is coming. The form that that regulation takes will be determined at least in part by how effectively the motorcycling community’s voice is heard. One purpose of the Meeting of the Minds is to ensure that that voice is heard, and effectively.

Issues the MRF is expecting to address in the near future include mandatory rider education, graduated licensing, and restricted access for motorcycles on some roadways.

Be grateful that someone is out there fighting for your rights. Consider joining them in the effort. You’ve got nothing to lose but your rights.

Biker Quote for Today

We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man. — Peter Fonda, The Wild Angels, 1966