Capitol Defense

                    By: Dave Breakiron                                                                                               5/07



Motorcycle Rider Education Advisory Committee


Big hat’s off to Gary Hilderbrand for getting Senator Gary Simpson, SB46 Sponsor, to attend and address the Motorcycle Rider Educational Advisory Committee on Tuesday March 20th in Legislative Hall. And a thank you to our good friend Representative Bruce Ennis, Chairman of the Committee for allowing Senator Simpson to speak and for allowing us to present our side of the issue.


Gary did an excellent job setting the ground work by pleading our case and Senator Simpson asked for our input on the issue. We didn’t know that we would have an audience but we got our side of the story across and I think it was well received. Senator Simpson had a copy of the letter I sent him and said he understood our concerns.


Tom Jarrett, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Technology and Information, told me that the bill will most likely die in committee. From his lips to Larry Fisher’s ears, God bless him! Senator Simpson has only two co-sponsors, Senators Maier and Sorenson. That’s three Republicans on the bill. The Public Safety Committee is chaired by Senator Henry, a Democrat, and includes my buddy Senator Dave McBride. Senator McBride has pledged to do whatever he can to make sure SB46 doesn’t see the light of day. The Senate also has a Democrat majority. The bill will need a 2/3 majority vote to pass and the “insiders” say it won’t happen.


Tom Jarrett also told me that we need to stay up to speed on this issue because the old school supporters we have are being pressured by the new wave of legislators that have different influences and theories of what makes for a safe motorcycle rider. The first question they ask are why do they have to have a helmet in their possession if they don’t have to wear it. The next one is if we have to wear seat belts in our cars, why don’t they have to wear helmets. Apples and oranges. But they don’t buy it.


Let’s face it, helmets “look” like they would help. If they only rode and looked into the facts about helmet testing. That’s where we come in. Most of those were up against have never ridden so we have to get the experience to them through our discussions. They use a different set of “facts” so we have to present our side of the story in a concise, professional and thorough manner.


Someone asked why he introduced the bill. Senator Simpson stated that he was at a meeting with some Emergency Room surgeons and they commented that they had seen a lot of head injuries in their ERs and felt that a mandatory helmet law for all motorcyclists would reduce the number of injuries and fatalities. They told him about a couple who died from severe head trauma without as much as a scratch on any other parts of their bodies. Good point. The helmet “may” have helped them. “May” being the operative word. The helmet could have also caused additional injury.


Senator Simpson was very receptive to our position and is open for additional discussion to hear the rest of our side. He didn’t feel that a Hearing was in the best interest at this time because it opens up a can of worms with squigglers from all corners. Gary Hilderbrand is trying to set up another meeting with Senator Simpson.


So, what have we done so far and what do we need to do next? I found out about the SB46 Thursday, March 15th from the News Journal. As soon as I read the piece in the paper I sent an E-mail to Senator Dave McBride, asking where this came from and where it may be headed. He responded that he had no prior knowledge of the bill, didn’t know where it was headed but assured me that he would do whatever he could to get our side heard and kill the bill in committee.


I then sent by fax, E-mail and the following day by regular mail, a three page letter to Senator Simpson, the bill sponsor. I also sent a copy of my letter to Helen Hall, our acting State Coordinator, and Gary Hilderbrand, our new Legislative Coordinator. I suggested that they circulate my letter to whomever they thought could use some of the info in my letter to help compile their own letter asking for support of our position. I’ve had the letter ready and was just waiting to see who it needed to be sent to.


On Friday, March 16th I sent a similar letter to all the members of the Senate Public Safety Committee, where the bill currently has been assigned. I sent these letters also by E-mail and regular mail so that they would all have a copy of the letter in their in box in Dover when they went to work on Tuesday.


On Monday, March 19th, I went to Dover to the Legislative Library to look up a few things in regard to our current laws and helmet approval, as written in the new bill. I ended up at the Office of Highway Safety and to the Office of Homeland Security. I ended up at Glenn Kemp’s office at the DMV. Glen is the Coordinator for the Rider Education Program. He’s the one that had the info on what an approved helmet is.



No “list”, but a copy of the Delaware Department of Public Safety Policy Regulation Number 30, dated June 12, 1978.  Also include in what Glen gave me was an accompanying letter from Francis Armstrong, Director of U.S. Department of Transportation, Vehicle Compliance Enforcement, to Robert Voshell, Director of our DMV, dated July 6, 1978.


That’s right. 1978. This stuff is 30 years old and they still don’t have a “list”. This Regulation Number 30 explains how our helmets are supposed to be made and what the testing requirements and standards to be met. The day after at the Motorcycle Rider Education Advisory Committee meeting Senator Simpson mentioned “approved helmet”. No one at the meeting knew what that implied. I kept my mouth shut on that one. I had the info in my vest pocket. Now I “think” I know what they want. But that’s all contrary to the test results I have in my files that I’ve been quoting for the last 17 years.


Like I’ve said before, get your message to the people who make the decisions. Don’t count on someone else doing it for you or you may be looking for a copy of Regulation Number 30 for your own use.



Meeting with the Governor


On Monday April 23rd I met with Governor Ruth Ann Minner in regards to SB46, the bill sponsored by Senator Gary Simpson to require mandatory helmets for all riders. The Governor has always supported us and I was looking for her continued support on SB46.


When I walked into her office she said she was expecting a visit from me. The second thing she said set the theme for our meeting. “David, when will someone invent a helmet that doesn’t block your vision and restrict you hearing? I know that’s important to all of you”.


“I’d like to expound on that line of thinking Governor” was my reply. I gave Governor Minner a copy of a letter addressing the public burden theory that our opposition throws out there that included some facts and figures on how ineffective helmets really are. I also gave her a copy of the letter containing different info that I sent to Senator Simpson and Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Chairwoman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, where the bill is currently.


I told here that the letters included lots of real data and I have back up on all the stats and it all speaks to why we should have the right to choose. But I stated that I didn’t want to through it line by line but would ask that she consider this information when making here decision. I wanted to address the hearing and vision impairment that she referred to.


I gave her the angle of needing all our senses to be safe riders. Dave Winnerling, an ol’ school Biker and Art instructor at the school I am currently managing renovation at, ran some stuff by me a few weeks ago that he had learned in college and used a couple times in the past weeks while debating the helmet issue with a few other teachers.


The meat and potatoes of my man Dave’s argument is that we are in contact with our environment through our senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. The more keen our senses, the better developed they are, the better our ability to survive. To minimize danger – to avoid accidents and injuries - riders must rely on their senses. Anything a rider can do to keep these senses as sharp as possible is an advantage to staying alive.


Helmets, in this respect, are dangerous. They block your peripheral vision and attenuate your hearing, both frequency and volume. Night vision is especially concentrated in the peripheral area of the visual field, making a wearing a helmet at night even worse.


Governor Minner said she knew where I was coming from and expects us to be in full force in the Capitol if this bill goes anywhere. I told her respectfully that she could count on it.


I closed our discussion by quantifying my position and stating that not all riders may be safer without a helmet, and I respect that. But I am certainly a safer rider without one, so it should be up to me to make that decision. For me wearing a helmet may get me in an accident. And if my wife or family can prove that the helmet had anything to do with my accident, and I’m sure they could, the State should be held responsible because the State is the entity that made me wear it.


I’m working on a sit down with Senator Henry to try to convince her to leave the bill in her drawer. Senator Dave McBride, member of the Committee and friend of ours, is working with us to see this bill doesn’t grow legs and start walking on its own.


In the meantime, it’s important that we get our message to the right people. Send you senator a letter and give them a call. And be ready to take the Capitol by storm if we need to.


The members of ABATE of Delaware and the Motorcycle Riders foundation have opened up doors in Dover and Washington DC. Now we just have to walk through the doors and deliver our message. We have to tell them our position and work with the ones that work with us.


Ride safe and ride smart!

Click HERE to read the letter to Gov. Minner