Issue 15 Mar-Apr 2008
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Overseas News

Biking around the world

US new federal helmet law threat

Washington DC - The National Transportation Safety Board have issued recommendations to states to require all riders and their passengers to wear helmets.

Currently, only 20 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have universal helmet laws requiring all riders to wear a helmet. Twenty-seven states and one territory have partial laws that require minors and/or passengers to wear such helmets. Three states have no helmet laws.

'The facts are very clear- head injuries are a leading cause of deaths in motorcycle crashes,' said NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. "The most important step riders can take in terms of protecting themselves and staying alive is to wear a DOT- compliant helmet every time they ride.'

Rosenker said. 'I hope that the Governors and legislative leaders in the States will act promptly and decisively to implement the universal helmet laws recommended today by the Board.'

Since 1997, motorcycle fatalities have increased 127 percent. Last year, 4,810 motorcyclists died in crashes, and accounted for more than 10 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities.

Last September, the Safety Board held a public forum and gathered information on ongoing motorcycle research and initiatives, as well as counter measures that may reduce the likelihood of motorcycle accidents and fatalities. The meeting included participants representing government, motorcycle manufacturers, motorcyclist associations, state motorcycle rights organisations, researchers, trauma physicians, law enforcement, and insurance companies.

As a result of a meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board, the Board has issued the following recommendations:

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Reprioritize the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety recommendations based on objective criteria, including known safety outcomes.

To the three states with no motorcycle helmet laws:

To the 27 states and one territory with partial motorcycle helmet laws:

To the 8 states, the District of Columbia, and the 4 territories with universal motorcycle helmet laws not specifically requiring specified helmets:

Riders rights activists in the USA dispute the conclusions of the compulsion lobby. James D. "Doc" Reichenbach II, Chairman of the NCOM Board of Directors makes the following points.

In 2004 Louisiana reinstated its mandatory helmet law. In 2006 the deaths jumped almost 20%. The projection this year is it will jump more than 10% again. In Florida since the helmet law was amended the fatality rate for helmet-wearing riders has far exceeded that of non-helmet riders. In 2005 more than 59% of the motorcyclist deaths in Florida were helmeted riders. Since 2000 the motorcycle registrations have increased more than 160%. To believe there is no correlation between the increase of registrations and the increase in deaths is just sticking your head in the sand. In other words the NTSB thinks motorcyclists should be forced by law to wear a helmet even though helmeted riders represent 3 out of 5 fatalities.

Meanwhile Nebraska heads for freedom
Motorcyclists in Nebraska could have the option to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. The Legislature is debating a bill that would let people 21 and older ride without one. If the bill is passed it would allow them to go helmet free only if they take a safety course and wear eye protection. However, drivers under 21 would still have to wear a helmet.

Aussie Mayor's official bike

AUSTRALIA - AN AUSSIE Mayor wants to be the first official in such a position to have a motorcycle as his official vehicle.

Newly-elected Mayor Bertrand Cadart, who played Clunk in the cult movie 'Mad Max', recently put in the post at Glamorgan-Spring Bay on Tasmania's East Coast, said he is pleased with his council's motorcycle-friendly policies and is currently testing bikes to see if he can use one for his civic duties.

'So far it has been so good,' he said. 'Of course I'm not sure how things will work when we will have visitors and dignitaries that I may have to cart around to show around the municipality, but we also have a pool of cars and I can always borrow a car if need be.'

Never mind the HOG get the pork

Thieves in China are stealing pork because the staple meat has become so expensive. A Shenzhen newspaper reported that a pork seller was knocked off his motorcycle by robbers who stole his load of over 200 pounds of pork, but left his motorcycle in the road.

He was on his way to a market in Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong, when four men jumped from a mini-bus and threatened him with knives.

The pork was worth 2000 yuan more than the motorcycle.

Swedes face massive insurance cost hike

Road safety forces in Sweden are using increasing motorcycle fatality figures (55 riders killed in 2006) to justify fresh draconian measures.

The main tactic being promoted to address what are considered excessive numbers of deaths is the requirement to fit a front number plate to all motorcycles. The logic is that speed cameras will then be able to identify motorcycles.

Furthermore, on top of the new insurance tax of 32% effective from 1st July 2007, Swedish bikers are facing the prospect of a further 100% tax from 2009 to cover future traffic accidents. Swedish rider group SMC have vowed to fight the proposal.

Drunken riding

Police in New York State say motorcyclists now account for 10% of all the people killed in traffic accidents, up from 5% 10 years ago. They say about a quarter of the motorcyclists killed in 2005 were unlicensed, and 61% of those killed in single-vehicle crashes were drunk.

Get a car biker is told

Howard Burley was arrested for drunk driving but is now a reformed man he claims.

Burley served jail time, and said he's cleaned up his life. To get his driver's license reinstated however he has to install an ignition interlock device. Drivers have to blow into it to prove they're straight before the engine will start.

The problem is they don't put them on motorcycles, and a motorcycle is all that Burley owns. If he wants to get his license back the Motor Vehicle Division of Arizona have told him he'll have to buy a car.

Victory in Europe on light madness

The European Commission (EC) has decided not to call for the use of daytime dipped-beam headlights in Europe. This means that the point of view of motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users has finally been taken into account.

Although the Commission still supports the view that daytime dipped-beam headlights could increase the safety of car drivers and reduce the number of car accidents and fatalities, it recognised that too little information is yet available about the impact of this measure on other road users.

This was one of the concerns raised by The Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA) against this proposal. FEMA argued that clear evidence and reliable statistics demonstrating the benefits of compulsory use of dipped beam headlights during the day from countries where it had been introduced were lacking. FEMA further claimed that there were sufficient doubts concerning the quality of some of the research to warrant its promotion as an issue for harmonisation.

Aline Delhaye, FEMA's General Secretary, says - 'While there may be a possibility of improving the safety of car drivers, harmonising the use of dipped beam headlights during the day would have inevitably led to a loss of conspicuity for motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users. By declaring that measures would not be implemented for the benefit of some road users at the expense of others, the European Commission has not only taken the concerns of motorcyclists into account, but has also sent out a positive message for the European road safety debate.

FEMA welcomes the EC decision and recognises that this crucial dialogue between stakeholders has lead to positive results for motorcyclists.

NB: MAG is an active member and major financier of FEMA. A portion of each MAG member's subs goes to support the Brussels-based lobbying facility to ensure that British bikers' interests are represented at European level.

Road is no place for toys!

A leading EU transport 'expert' has questioned whether there is any place for motorcycles on Europe's roads.

Norwegian Rune Elvik says: 'In Norway, I believe all the most cost effective measures have been implemented - mandatory helmet use, strict licensing, engine tuning ban, daytime running lights for motorbikes. The question that needs to be raised now is whether there should be any place for these motorised toys in the transport system at all.'

The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG UK) says that Elvik's comments, which are contained in a recent report from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), are biased and anti motorcycling.

There is a real danger of these so called experts' opinions and motorcycle safety reports being accepted without question.

On 21st December 2007, the Flemish Parliament in Belgium was presented with the ETSC report as a basis for legislation on motorcycle safety. However the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) Belgium, with the support of MPs, defended the riders' position by using the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations' (FEMA), European Agenda for Motorcycle Safety which highlights the importance of finding real solutions to improve the casualty rates for motorcyclists.

As a direct result of MAG Belgium's action, the ETSC report was rejected and instead, MAG Belgium's motorcycle friendly programme was adopted.

MAG's General Secretary, Trevor Baird, says: 'Motorcycling is under constant threat from the European safety agenda. The introduction of this agenda has been thwarted in Belgium before it spreads further like a rash across Europe. MAG will continue to protect motorcycling and defend riders' rights from whatever quarter the threat comes.'

Sound bites

Delray Beach Florida - A proposed ordinance would prohibit motorcycles on Atlantic Avenue from Swinton to Southeast Fifth avenues if city commissioners have their way.

Motorcycle traffic would be shut down in the area from 7 a.m. to 11p.m. seven days a week. Those who use motorcycles would be forced to park off Atlantic Avenue and walk to their shopping or dining destinations.

'I have received numerous calls from restaurant owners requesting we do something about the motorcycle exhaust noise,' said Mayor Rita Ellis.

IOWA: Death by Deer
The number of deadly crashes between bikers and deer is on the rise. By November ten people had been killed during 2007 in Iowa alone. Eight were motorcyclists who died in crashes with Bambi. Two others died when their bikes hit a deer and then collided with another vehicle.

The U.S. House of Representatives has formed a motorcycle safety caucus to address motorcycle safety. Rider groups are encouraging bikers to get bike-friendly politicians to join the caucus in an effort to prevent unfriendly legislation.

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