March 15, 2007
Senator Gary Simpson
PO Box 1401
Dover, Delaware 19903
Dear Senator Simpson:
I am writing to you in response to SB46 that you have sponsored and would require mandatory helmets for all motorcyclists.
Please consider the following in your decision making regarding mandatory helmets for all riders.
Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione was quoted in a News Journal article as saying, “We have laws that say kids under 16 have to wear helmets when riding bicycles, but we allow adults to go 60, 70, 80 miles per hour on a motorcycle and they don’t have to wear helmets”.
Sounds good at first but…I didn’t know we were “allowed” to go 70 or 80 mph. Secondly, bicycle helmets work. And lastly, Motorcycle helmets don’t work. Just ask the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
A recent search of NHTSA’s web site revealed that helmet standard compliance tests show a failure rate of 64% of all helmets tested since 1994. NHTSA is the safety arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) who is the chief proponents of mandatory “CRASH” helmets.
DOT tests helmets by a 6-foot vertical drop, impacting at 13.66 mph. Even at these low impacts 64% fail. That would explain why the last new helmet I purchased a few years ago had a sticker in the lining that read, “Warning: No protective head gear can protect the wearer from unforeseeable impacts. This helmet is not designed to provide neck or lower head protection. This helmet exceeds Federal Standard FMVSS218: Even so, death or serious injury may result from speeds as low as 15mph while wearing a helmet”. Now the sticker makes sense.
Add to that the facts, according to a British study, that “helmets reduce side vision an average of 41 degrees, representing a 16% impairment to the normal field of vision”. How about the fact that, according to Isaac Newton’s Law of Motion, when applying the law of inertia, a 4 pound helmet at 50 mph becomes 200 pounds upon impact. The weight factor adds to discomfort and fatigue and fatigue ids the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents.
And according to a series of scientific studies by engineer D.R. Fisher, “helmets increase the temperature of a wearers head more than three times as much as a wool hat and trap two-thirds of the heads heat without allowing it to dissipate: sound attenuation represents an impairment in the ability of a rider to perceived or discriminate warning or other useful sounds that decrease the risk of being involved in an accident”.
Or consider the study conducted by Dr. Jonathan Goldstein, Bowdoin College that concluded: “Motorcycle helmets have no statistically significant effect on the probability of fatality, and past a critical impact speed, helmets increase the severity of neck injuries”.
Research conducted by The Brain Injury Association of America and the Ontario Head Injury Association conclude that the most brain injuries are caused by the secondary impact, or Contrecoup, which occurs when the brain comes in forced contact with the inside of the skull. The sadly well-known phenomenon of the Shaken Baby Syndrome is a prime example of how brain injuries occur.
What protection would a 4 pound plastic bowl on your head provide when your brain, traveling at 55 MPH, hits the inside of your skull, and slams into the opposite side of the initial impact, causing additional contusion? Wouldn’t it be better to avoid the impact in the first place? And wouldn’t it be better to try to beat the odds prior to the accident than afterwards? That’s another reason why I think I deserve the Freedom of Choice.
The point here is that if I can see and hear the other guy, am not fatigued to the point my reaction time is decreased, I have a considerably better chance of avoiding the accident. And by avoiding the accident I don’t have to rely on a safety device that has not been proven to be effective.
Social Burden is another one that always rears its ugly head during the Helmet debate. How am I a burden on society because I choose to ride a motorcycle without a helmet? I’m not, considering the fact that the automobile driver is at fault in more than 70% of all car/motorcycle conflicts, according to the Second International Congress on Automobile Safety.
Most of the “Burden” on us is brought on by the other guy. If the car operator is at fault, he’s the burden on society, if anyone is. I’m the victim. If the helmet would have or could have kept him from running me over or off the road, then and only then, the helmet and I become the burden.
Also I pay into the social nets every week. Medi-Care, welfare and all the other social nets are an important part of society. I haven’t used them yet but may need to some day. Am I a social burden? I’m as insured as or better than the average motorist. And so is the average biker. No social burden here. Quite the contrary. Social burden is an attitude. People only hear what they want to and it makes them feel better if they can cast blame away from themselves.
Motorcyclists are considerably less reliant on the social nets than any other group. We are just as likely, or more so, than any other group admitted to Trauma Centers to be insured. We have the highest insurance payment rate of any group. Motorcyclists make up a smaller percentage than any other group of road trauma cases, based on vehicle miles traveled. Bottom line is that no other group is less a burden on society than we are. We’re just an easy target.
I’m not against helmets, just the mandatory use of them. Helmets are not the answer. Awareness and Education is the answer. Helmets are for after the accident, where Awareness and Education come before the accident and help to prevent it in the first place. It’s a safety issue with me. I feel safer without it. Many of my riding buddies would not think of riding without a helmet on. I appreciate that. I just ask that my reasoning be considered as well.
I bought my first motorcycle in 1970. I had my first, only and, wishfully thinking, last motorcycle accident on a public highway in 1972. I was passing a vehicle that turned left in front of me. Although the driver didn’t signal for the turn, it was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention to the driver of the car. I hit the left front fender, went over my handlebars, over the hood and slid 50 yards on my side and back. No helmet and no head injuries. No leathers and 3 cracked ribs, a broken ankle, broken wrist and a serious, and painful, dose of road rash on one side of my body from my shoulder to my ankle.
I have continued to ride for the past 36 years. I started on a small off road bike and worked my way up to the biggest touring bike Harley-Davidson makes. I have logged over 70,000 miles in the past 10 years, from Massachusetts to Florida to Ohio and Canada.
Five close calls in recent years in West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ontario were also my fault because I didn’t see the other guy and he didn’t see me. I was wearing a helmet. It’s mandatory in all five of these places. But it’s my job to see the other guy and be sure that he sees me.
Therefore I should have the freedom and liberty to make the decision for myself as to what’s safest, based on my personal experiences, miles traveled and education.
In closing, I would be pleased to discuss, in more detail, additional data that I feel favors freedom of choice and why and how Rider Education and Motorist Awareness are the only real ways to reduce fatalities.
Dave Breakiron, Sr.
Motorcycle Riders Foundation
Delaware State Rep