April 23, 2007
Governor Ruth Ann Minner
William Penn Street
Dover, Delaware 19901
Dear Governor Minner:
Thank you for taking time to meet with me and discuss SB46, the proposed Senate Bill that would require motorcycle helmets for all riders here in Delaware.
Please consider the following in your decision making regarding mandatory helmets for all riders.
I would first like to comment on the “Public Burden” argument that we hear from the proponents of mandatory helmet laws for all riders.
A public burden is defined as an individual or group that causes additional suffering or cost to society-at-large without contributing to those costs. We should look at the whole idea of whether motorcyclists, helmeted or not, create additional cost to society.
The average motorcyclist, according to a survey by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), is 38 years old, has a median income of $44,250 and almost 59% are married. Just over 31% are in the professional / technical category of professions, 36% have completed some college and 23% are college graduates. We contribute our “fair share” to society.
Now that you know who we are, let’s look at some REAL numbers.
A study done by Harborview Medical Center, used in numerous arguments for mandatory helmet use by the National Traffic Highway transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that 63.4% of injured motorcyclists taken to a trauma center relied on public funds to pay for their hospital bills. The study also noted that67% of the general patient population relied o public money to pay their hospital stays during the same time period. This is the of part of the study that the proponents of mandatory helmet laws fail to include.
A similar study by the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center showed that 49.5% of all injured motorcyclists had their medical costs covered by insurance, almost identical to the 50.4% of the other road trauma victims that were similarly injured.
The North Carolina study also stated “Helmet use is not associated with overall injury severity, discharge status or insurance status”. In another study released by the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety it was found that “There is no appreciable differences found relative to fatality rate, severity of injury, hospital stay and discharge status between victims who wore a helmet or those who did not”.
Motorcyclists are NOT a public burden. We DO carry health insurance as often as other vehicle operators. Consider the findings the “Journal of Trauma” that stated, “Automobile accidents account for 45.5% of head injured patients and are responsible for 37.1% of all fatalities involving head injuries. Or the National Safety Councils “Accident Facts” that states “Motorcycles comprise 2.5% of vehicles in the United States, yet are involved in 1.1% of the accidents”.
The Second International Congress on American Automobile Safety concluded that “The automobile driver is at fault in more than 70% of all car / motorcycle conflicts”. In those cases we would hope the car driver was insured.
So much for the social or public burden. Now let’s look at the helmet.
According to a Department of Transportation Helmet Test Report, “helmets are tested by a 6 foot vertical drop, impacting at 13.66 mph. Even at these low impacts, 52% of all helmets tested by DOT since 1974 have failed”.
But most interesting of all is that motorcycle helmet manufacturers do not warrant their helmets for anything other than cosmetic injury or “skipping” types of head injuries, where the rider is propelled along the road and does not come in direct contact with an obstacle at a speed above 15mph. I guess the manufacturers have read the DOT report also.
Contrary to statements by some lawmakers, members of the media and other proponents of mandatory helmet laws, helmets reduce hearings and vision levels that would not allow a driver to obtain a drivers license in most states. It may sound contrite, but wearing a helmet while driving an automobile is against the law in most states, including California, which tried to pass a helmet bill for all motor vehicle operators in 1989.
In the fall of 1995 both chambers of the United States Congress adopted amendments to the National Highway System funding bill to repeal Federal penalties against states that did not have mandatory helmet laws. President Clinton signed this bill on November 28, 1995.
What does all this mean? It means that educated motorcycle riders should have the right to choose to wear a helmet or not. Motorcycle riders are no greater burden to society than any other group, and less a burden than most.
The real answer is for NHTASA, the government entity charged with correcting safety issues, to turn from the flawed philosophy of “safer crashing” and focus o its efforts on the promotion of motorcycle education and awareness and accident prevention.
In closing, I would like to thank you again for your time and ask for your support in my opposition of SB46.
Educate don’t legislate. And “LET THOSE THAT RIDE DECIDE”!
Dave Breakiron, Sr.
Motorcycle Riders Foundation
Delaware State Rep