According to recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Federal Government is pushing, once again, to have helmet use made mandatory in all states, citing the surging number of motorcycle fatalities. The government also stated that motorcycle fatalities were higher than all accidents in the rail, aviation, marine, and pipeline industries….uh, what? How does a rail accident compare to a motorcycle? How about vehicle fatalities…i.e. cars? That part is a stretch and sounds a little like nanny government reaching for numbers to justify a cause, but let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this issue.
I’ll be the first one to say that a rider SHOULD wear a helmet; a helmet DOES protect your brain bucket and gives you a higher chance of survival should things go awry. I never ride without mine. That being said, we do not need an increasingly nanny-ish government telling us how to dress while riding a bike. Anyway, the government is missing the mark when it comes to motorcycle fatalities…helmet use is indeed a factor, but a minor one when compared to the explosion of driver distractions in the last decade. What situations created those fatalities cited by the government? What factors were at play? It’s a given that there is an idiot percentage in there, those who ride irresponsibly and generally act like morons, but I would wager that a majority of the fatalities the government is touting were likely involving cars and other vehicles failing to yield to the motorcyclist’s right of way. There are various university and government studies out there already that find that “failure to yield” accidents, such as left turns in front of a motorcycle, are one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents. A helmet is not a cause, a distracted driver who failed to notice traffic before turning left IS. A helmet is not a cause, a person chatting it up on the cell phone and wandering across the double yellows and into oncoming traffic IS. If we’re going to address the issue of motorcycle fatalities, then lets look at the REAL factors at play and work on those. A helmet figures into the after effects of a traffic accident…we should be focused on preventing the accidents from happening in the first place!
Distracted driving affects EVERYONE on the road, not just motorcyclists. Your typical responsible motorcyclist MUST concentrate on riding and controlling the bike, whereas a driver in something other than a motorcycle has a variety of gadgets and toys to divert their attention from the road ahead and world outside. We see the stories everyday….driver turned left in front of….driver failed to notice the stoplight….driver was fiddling with the radio when they wandered… If we were to focus on solving the distracted driving problem, deaths would not only drop for motorcyclists, but they would also drop for everyone else using the nation’s highways and byways. A win win. What’s wrong with going after the root of the problem? Too tough for the government to touch?
As a motorcyclist who commutes to work, I deal with distracted drivers on a daily basis…the majority of which are left turners who many times have a cell phone glued to their ear while “winging” it with the steering wheel. I approach every intersection with my head on a swivel, looking for any possible threat to my path of travel. My riding friends do the same process…it is a never-ending practice that MUST be done to ensure our survival in today’s world of “mobile living rooms and offices”. We all need to do a better job!
Hang that cell phone up and look out your windshield, just drive…